Journalist Rana Sabbagh, former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Jordan Times, is also fed up of the comparisons with Syria and Egypt. "Jordanians find this comparison – which, incidentally, is also popular in the West – inappropriate," she says. "By all means, compare Jordan with Tunisia or even Lebanon, when talking about a liberal media landscape. But don't compare us to those countries whose rulers completely disregard human rights and behave like the worst autocrats."

A devastating report on governance

The government and the royal family are using the crises in the region and the huge numbers of refugees in the country as an excuse for the dreadful situation. While the collapse of the markets in Syria and Iraq really have hit the country hard and overall conditions are tough (Jordan has no resources worth mentioning and very little land that is suitable for agriculture), Jordan's problems are also homemade.

In late 2018, Mustafa Hamarneh, head of the Economic and Social Council (ESC), published a 1,500-page report entitled State of the Country. Over 700 Jordanian academics contributed to the report. Hamarneh is considered one of the country's leadership elite: he regularly meets the king, and the ESC is supposed to advise the government. Nevertheless, the report on governance in Jordan over the past 18 years is unprecedented, painting a brutally honest picture of incompetence, nepotism and corruption in the kingdom.

Die jordanischJordanian journalist Rana Sabbagh (source: Twitter@Rana_Sabbagh)e Journalistin Rana Sabbagh; Quelle: Twitter@Rana_Sabbagh
Rana SabbagRana Sabbagh: "People wanted to know what they are getting for their taxes," she says. "The education and health systems are very poor; roads and infrastructure catastrophic. Why should we pay taxes if we don't get anything for it?"h: "Die Menschen wollten wissen, was sie für ihre Steuern bekommen", sagt sie. "Bildungs- und Gesundheitswesen sind sehr schlecht, Straßen und Infrastruktur miserabel. Warum sollen wir Steuern zahlen, wenn wir nichts bekommen?"

State of the Country details how no less than nine government strategies for economic growth and job creation announced since 2002 got bogged down in a jungle of bureaucracy, a lack of interest and incompetence. According to the report, unemployment and national debt continue to rise, and the state is not in a position to provide its citizens with an acceptable level of public services.

Growing lack of faith in politics

The report criticised that while the country has a lot of institutions that sound democratic, these are just a facade to make the West believe that efforts are being made at reform. Since the year 2000, there have been 11 governments and 370 ministers, 257 of whom had no political experience before taking office. All of these politicians sought primarily to get "a piece of the cake on the basis of a very narrow interpretation of clan membership," says State of the Country.

"Public offices have become an opportunity to make as much money as possible and to acquire some prestige, while qualifications, accountability and control mechanisms are lacking." The report makes it clear that this kind of politics only benefits a small number of Jordanians, while the state and most Jordanians go empty-handed. Hamarneh sums it up by saying that political failure means that people have less and less faith in politics.

Rana Sabbagh also sees a rapid loss of faith in the country's institutions. But she goes on to say that "unlike other rulers in other countries in the region, the king has no problems of legitimacy."

There is a broad consensus in the country that the monarchy as an institution is indispensable for a fragile state made up of people from the East Bank, Palestinians, refugees and migrants. "But people are not happy with the way the country is governed," and they are giving vent to this dissatisfaction with increasing regularity – even if this dissatisfaction is directed against the policies of the king.

Claudia Mende

© 2019

Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan

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