By Fares Braizat – September 30, 2018
Why does government messaging on tax law not seem to be working? Over the past few weeks, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz and his team embarked upon an outreach campaign to convince Jordanian taxpayers of the newly revisited income tax law. Despite the sincerity and determination of some members of Razzaz’s team, their message fell on deaf ears.
In his speech at the University of Jordan on September 9, the premier said “the aim of tax is to take from the rich and give to the poor”. This overarching principle is supposed to be popular, especially among poorer households. Well, it turned out to be challenging. In the most recent poll on government performance after 100 days in office, conducted by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, 56 per cent of adult Jordanians supported the premier’s statement, while 40 per cent opposed it. These two positions point to the idea that people will support the tax law because “tax takes from the rich and gives the poor” is not necessarily a valid proposition to mobilise grassroots support for the law.
The poll also revealed that only 3.5 per cent of Jordanians reported that their “household income covers their needs and they can save” (rich), while 22 per cent said “it covers their needs and cannot save” (sufficiency) and a staggering 72 per cent said “it does not cover their needs and they face difficulties” (needy). Support for the premier’s statement among the “rich” is 45 per cent, while opposition is 55 per cent. Among the “sufficiency” and the “needy” categories, support stands at 56 per cent and opposition at 40 per cent. Clearly, the majority of the rich disagrees with “taxing the rich to give to the poor”, while the majority of the “not rich” categories support it.
Despite this background, there is an overwhelming rejection of the tax law, especially among the poorer categories. Those who oppose passing the law through Parliament were highest among the “needy” category at 78 per cent, followed by the “sufficiency” category at 72 per cent and the least opposing to passing it through Parliament at 63 per cent were among the “rich”. The boldest expressions of this rejection were in the poorest governorates, such as Tafileh, Maan, Ajloun and Zarqa, where ministers were insulted and left ungracefully while trying to explain the law and generate support for it.
Ideally, the percentage of people who support “tax the rich and give to the poor” should support passing the law through Parliament, but this is not the case. Only 17 per cent of the “sufficiency” and “needy” categories support passing it through Parliament. Furthermore, the premier’s inaugural speech of the campaign at the University of Jordan was viewed only by 15 per cent of adult Jordanians despite intense broadcasting, while only 4 per cent listened to it entirely.
Among the latter, 55 per cent had a positive impression, 32 per cent had a negative impression and 13 per cent did not state an opinion.
The failure of messaging can be explained by many factors from within the strategic communication discipline, but the pre-decidedly adopted rejectionist position of the tax law by those who are supposed to benefit from it should ring very loud alarm bills among policy circles to revisit the impact of changing state-society relations on diffuse support for the institutions of the political system.
The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E Dr. Fares Braizat.
This article was originally published in Jordan Times on September 30, 2018. For the original article source, click here.