By Fares Braizat, Feb 13,2022

Why was the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System (RCMPS) established, and is it going to be different from the 13 previous attempts since the early 1990s in terms of outcome?

These are the two main questions that have been surfacing since June 2021 and that this piece attempts to provide preliminary answers to.

Since 1989 when parliamentary elections were resumed after over three decades of regional political turbulence, we have witnessed the creation of over 13 committees to address emerging issues. These include the National Charter, 1991, Jordan First, 2002, The National Agenda, 2005, All Jordan, 2006, Royal Commission for Regions, 2008, National Dialogue Committee, 2011, Privatization Review Committee, 2013, Committee for Integrity and Anti-Corruption, 2013­–2014, Jordan Vision 2025, launched in 2014, National Human Resources Development Commission, 2015, Royal Commission for the Development Judiciary and Strengthening the Rule of Law, 2017, RCMPS, 2021 and the Public Sector reform committees, 2021–2022.

The number of initiatives indicates a realization that there are “issues” and they ought to be addressed. The above attempts varied from political to economic to governance issues, but the Jordanian public got fatigued, and as time passed, more Jordanians gradually lost interest in public affairs. 

The most recent proof is that only 7 percent knew about the most recent public sector reform committee established and led by the prime minister. Recently published polls by CSS and NAMA show that nearly two-thirds of adult Jordanians are not following political issues and those who follow barely know about the content of currently debated issues, including constitutional amendments. 

Detachment from public life is caused by a series of trend-full fluctuations since the early 1990s. It is precisely the same set of reasons that led to the establishment of the committee. 

First, the identity of the economy is no longer the familiar “semi-rentier”, with its implications for state-society relations. It has been moving to a capitalist economy, albeit an immature one. This created disorientation. Foreign aid makes up 9 percent of government expenditure and 11 percent of domestic revenue. Thus, the economy is largely self-dependent. 

Second, declining confidence in civilian public institutions, especially representative institutions like parliament, in which confidence declined from over 50 percent before 2011 to a third now. 

Third, trust in successive governments declined from as high as 83 percent in the late 1990s to the lowest point ever since then, 34 percent now; the current prime minister is seen as the lowest-performing since polling government performance started in 1996. 

Fourth, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of Jordanians saying “justice does not exist in Jordan”: from 8 percent in 1999 to 37 percent in 2021. 

Fifth, unemployment increased by 10 points compared to 2011, and reached 50 percent among youths in 2021. Sixth, social capital has declined significantly from nearly a third in 2007 to nearly 15 percent in 2018. Seventh, a significant increase in the percentage of adult Jordanians who expressed their intention to emigrate, from 18 percent in 2011 to nearly a third in 2021.

Jordan has also suffered in international indicators such as the Freedom House index of civil liberties and political rights, where Jordan was described as “not free” in 2021. A similar result is also to be found in the respectable Transformation Index BTI, where Jordan was described as “moderate autocracy”.

For all these significant changes in state-society relations, the RCMPS was created to present some solutions. The political solutions presented by the RCMPS are not enough to address all issues mentioned above. There is need for economic and administrative committees to chart the way forward. This is critical because when people become indifferent to public affairs, they give way to “a few” to control public life while the majority’s discontent, detachment, and disenchantment are growing exponentially. Such a track is not only unsustainable, it is also dangerous. 

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on February 13, 2022. For the original article source, click here

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