Why the Indifference?

By: Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Mon 18 July / Jul 2016. 08:26 PM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Theoretically, the figures show that poverty in Jordan has been statically fixed at 14.4 per cent since 2008, according to governmental data published for the first time in 2010. This means that government policies have successfully led to stabilising poverty at that level.

Accordingly, the poor should be doing well, compared to what was anticipated to be incurred to them in light of the culmination of economic difficulties faced by Jordanians in general. The reality, however, is quite the contrary; the poor are neglected and side-lined. More so, they are angry and feel inferior.

Proof of that is the delayed publication of figures on poverty and demographic census for years. The earliest figure at hand belongs to the 2010 census; that is 6 years ago. There is, as well, here; a possible danger that the government is trying to cover up recent results, or at best, withhold them. In 2013, too, a census was due, but was delayed on the basis of there being not enough financial resources.

Whatever the argument is for this reality, it is utterly unacceptable. Information acquired by “Al Ghad”, months ago, confirmed that the census has uncovered shocking data to the government of Dr Abdullah Nsoor; poverty had reached as high as 20 per cent. And at the time, the government reaffirmed that the ratios published by the newspaper was inaccurate, without providing the “actual” figures they have. Moreover, having refused to provide a strong rebuttal of the published data, the government did not explain why they were unwilling to share such information with the public!

Finally, the Statistics Department decided to leap the most recent figures to conduct a new census early next year, expected to be published in 2018. This only means that updating quantitative figures representative of the reality of poverty in Jordan will be put off another two more years, touching at nearly a decade in total, with the poverty rate unrevised or updated.

Perhaps we are in no rush to uncover the social reality of Jordanians! Given Jordan is unlike any other state; maybe we can plan to counter poverty on the basis of years-old data! Or maybe, just maybe; the poor do not matter. We have nothing to do with them, therefore, there is nothing negative, or catastrophic even, to fear off these figures!

Why should we? Care for the poor I mean. Why build data bases on their status? What’s the rush to update the figure? They are on the margins already, and apparently, according to the government, there’s nothing they can do about it. Despite all they have endured over the last difficult years.

Fluctuating prices of goods and services, particularly basic goods and services; in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring”, which by the way was only stirred by the poor and the impoverished and marginalised masses, as well as the repercussions of the Syrian refuge, all are unimportant factors, as seen by our government, that left their mark on impoverished Jordanians; which is why recurrent governments have handled the poor with such indifference!

Were that not the case, the alternative would be a deeply driven effort to understand and address poverty as a social situation, and a pillar to comprehensive security, which does not seem to be the view of our governments. Their reaction to the 20 per cent shock was to cover it up, just as would an ostrich, or so it is said to do, when sensing danger!

The 2012-2013 most definitely did come with new results on poverty. And it is the right of the media and public opinion to deliberate these result, whatever they may be. Even were the figures still within the near-decade old range, in any case, addressing the issue as it really is, outstands in necessity of efforts to cover it up, while it festers and deepens.

Director of the Statistics Department, Dr Faisal Zoubi, explained withholding the figures, and the new census, by saying there will be new frameworks and criteria outlining the reality of income in Jordan, especially since such structural shifts have been induced socially in the Kingdom, uncovered by the demography and residents census in 2015. Which is the position adopted also by the former Minister of Social Development, Reem Abu Hassan.

National, and professional, integrity demands there be a realistic revaluation of the scale of poverty in Jordan. It is not important whether or not the figures will be comforting for officials, but that they are realistically suitable for Jordan’s sustenance, security, and Stability.