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Targeting Jordan’s stability as part of the deal of the century

June 12, 2018 at 9:58 am

Jordan’s budget for this year suffers from a roughly financial deficit of $1.753 billion [Shadi Nsoor/Anadolu Agency ]

There was no demand for the fall of the regime or for it to change, instead demands were made to drop a law that put more burden on the shoulders of the poor and the middle class. When the government did not respond to these demands the masses called for its removal. That is what happened.

The Jordanian monarch was unable to ignore the popular uprising that took place across the country. It was distinguished by clear peaceful, specific slogans, keeping traditional parties at bay, and a large youth participation.

The successive measures of raising prices and taxes hurt the citizens who tried in vain to absorb them and adapt to them, as well as understand their reasons and inevitability. They made silence and endurance a necessary contribution to stability. However, the continued hikes in prices over a short period of time was not an indication of mismanagement, but rather a lack of realisation and acknowledgement.

There was not one realistic explanation for this approach other than the fact that those planning to reform and repair the financial and economic situations, based on the conditions of the IMF, needed a certain amount of money to be pumped into the budget and they found no other way to do it but to take it out of the people’s pockets.

READ: On the political and cultural lessons of the Jordanian popular movement

The technical team in Hani Mulki’s government put the reform plan in place based on the data available to it, while the political team failed to take the collateral damage seriously. Or, perhaps it based it on the failure of the movement in the context of the Arab Spring, believing that any protests against the taxes would not exceed certain limits, because the people were affected by the experiences of other countries and are afraid of any chaos and any situation that may destabilise the country.

These calculations were wrong. With time, resentment turned into mass anger. When hardship began to affect the last remaining factors of a dignified and decent life and threaten the future, the explosion of mass anger was expected any time. Then came the peak of government recklessness when it proposed the income tax draft law. This was a confrontation between the state and people, both without possibilities or options.

The popular movement obtained what it wanted, but the real crisis remains and is likely to be exacerbated.

Jordan is a country that has managed to maintain its stability, despite its lack of resources and the increasing burden on it, not only because of the Syrian refugees in the country and the Iraqis before them, but also because of the volcanoes of civil strife that surround it. There is also the permanent turmoil caused by Israel’s evasion of the requirements and responsibilities for a real solution to the Palestinian issue.

These difficulties are neither new nor sudden to Jordan, but what is new and urgent is the previous cut to Arab aid, specifically from the Gulf, which had allowed it to manage the budget deficit.

The reasons for this are political pressures, according to King Abdullah II, who did not reveal them explicitly. However, these pressures are related to forcing Amman to go along with the “deal of the century” and to bless the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, thus becoming a part of the Arab and regional axes and polarisations resulting from American policies that are very hostile towards Arab interests, to say the least.

READ: Jordan pins hopes on billion dollar Gulf aid package

There is no doubt that this time changing the government also includes a change in the approach adopted for economic and social issues and the IMF has no other choice but to understand the difficulties and agree to slow and gradual reforms.

Neither the IMF nor the international powers controlling its work can achieve its objectives by simply pressuring and hurrying the government.

At the same time, if American and Arab pressures remain the same, and this is likely, this will only mean that those applying pressure are aiming for the same result: targeting Jordan’s stability as part of the ” deal of the century”.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.