Friday, 18 February 2011

How is it going in Jordan?

Everyday or so I get an e-mail from back home, family, friends, friends of parents asking how things are in Jordan? Well as the "Arabic Spring" and its revolutions continue to sweep over the Middle East, I thought I would just reassure everybody, Jordan is quiet. Yes, there are problems in Jordan: the country is not escaping the economic problems, inflation is hitting hard, the income gap in between rich and poor is growing, the unemployment rate reaches 12% and let's not forget the public deficit which has never been so high. We have had protests every Friday for the past month or so, mainly in Amman.

Compared with Ben Ali or Mubarak, the street is not asking for the King to go. What they want is a change of Prime Minister (though he had only been here a few months), freer elections and parliamentary reforms. Well the sacking of the Prime Minister they got it: our King dismissed Rifai and his cabinet in the beginning of February. He was replaced by Al-Bakhit, who is seen as stable, but also conservative figure. Al-Bakhit is the man that came in after the 2005 deadly hotel bombings, he was also very much involved in the peace treaty with Israel. Will he be able to bring the reforms need in Jordan for things to become better? I don't know but the guy has a huge task ahead of him. Is the stability of Jordan on his shoulders? Maybe, probably. Al-Bakhit is Jordanian, as opposed to two thirds of the Jordanian population who are Palestinian. Without classifying anybody I think that the first group tends to be better off than the second.
The King certainly "bought time" when he replaced the PM but all the reforms that are needed will take a long, long time to implement and it will take even more time to see some results. For me one of the biggest problems is corruption, it cripples the country: from the elections to the decisions as to where money needs to be spend and for whom. Let's hope that Al-Bakhit and his cabinet will be able to stay far away from corruption.

The unrests are far to be over in the Middle East: yesterday it was Tunisia and Egypt, today Libya, Yemen or Bahrain and tomorrow? well only the future will say. For all these countries it is just the start. In the countries where the people got what they wanted: they need to learn about democracy, and that's not an easy task. How long did it take France after 1789? A century? more? Ok that's far away in history. What about the former east block in Europe? some states are still fighting high unemployment rates, low salaries and corruption - the older generation would argue that "under the old regime" at least they had a job and food on the table. I guess what I am trying to say is that unfortunately it's not because Ben Ali or Mubarak are gone that all his perfect - far from it. These populations will need a lot of time, a lot of support to get to where they want and it'll be a bumpy ride. The whole political system needs to be constructed - they have no real opposition, no political programs, not many political leaders.

Back to Jordan. Will the protests continue - it is possible, though I believe they will remain peaceful. I think it is more a crisis of confidence in between the people and the power, than a need of radical change. I believe it all depends on the speed with which al Bakhit and King Abdullah II will take steps toward reforms.  But I want to stress, that I feel that Jordan is not like the other countries in the region, nor can you compare the King to other rulers in the area.

I thought this was an interesting article: Jordanian demand change - just don't touch the King


PARIMITA said...

enjy'd reading.
same is the case with us.even people back home is worried about us as they see the turmoil all over middle east.had to call and assure them everyday that alls fine in kuwait

Babs said...

Well it is a bit scary as they don't talk about anything else on the news! Even the smallest protest can look big on tv! and then the media likes to make it worse no?

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