by Yusuf Mansur
The Jordanian economy has not been without a rudder; it had direction, only the wrong direction.
Lacking a steady and correct vision or map (once called a “blue print”) its captains swerved and parried, changing (due to whim or crisis) direction as if in a fairytale, oftentimes with no one knowing which way the ship was going.
Such is my summary of the economy of the past decade. Now that bad habits set in, and the public lost faith in its economic managers, focus must be shifted to larger questions: Where are we going? How are we going about it? Do the people want to go that way?
The answers must come from a globally credible political process by a duly, transparently elected and well-represented government.
Arguably, economic decisions so far have been misguided and myopic. Examples and evidence of such a claim are plenty, and I pointed them out over the years. I will not, therefore, revisit them since the list would be far too long.
The emphasis on growth was the major blunder, since the vision contained neither reference nor action(s) towards equity or regional distribution into the outer governorates.
Legislation was warped to make Jordan a haven for the rich, with not a worry about the poor. Studies that showed a shrinkage of the middle income groups, rising unemployment among the educated and increasing poverty went unnoticed, or simply shrugged off.
The youth, who make up 60 per cent of the population, suffered as they were missed by the rising FDI inflows and burgeoning GDP. Government (in terms of size and budget) grew every way it could, unmonitored and unaccountable for its actions.
Consequently, growth has been sinusoidal (rising and falling with the ebbs and flows of global occurrences), thus demonstrating lack of sustainability.
In short, the economy is a ship in the wind. Without a proper rudder and astuteness, it will face dangerous uncertainties whose fruits no one wants to bear.
The most apparent instruction from this trip to nowhere is that our institutions require major overhauling. Under the current paradigm, they will not learn; and if, by some fluke of chance or fancy they do come to learn, they do not have the capacity to act; and if they act, without proper monitoring and vigilance they will misbehave; and the vicious downwards cycle will persist. In other words, the change must happen at all levels, including how the change process is managed.
Political reform is, therefore, a must. A new Elections Law, where the voter is able to cast more than one vote, must allow for parties to be formed and when they enter elections and win majority seats in the Parliament, they should be able to form majority or coalition governments.
When a party wins, as in all developed countries, opposition parties maintain vigil, for the sole purpose of replacing it at the helm through a voting process that is representative of the will, desires and pains of the street. If it succeeds in steering with a rudder that is woven of the fabric of all interests, then it will, by virtue of its successes, remain in office.
For now, however, and while attempting political reform, the government must tackle some of the economic woes of the people by using all means to jumpstart the economy again.
An economic reprieve would allow for actions to be better thought and studied since few good decisions can be made when the stomach is empty.
This, in my thinking, would be for now a better approach than using aid to repay deficit and debt.