The Economy and the Chief’s Sermon…

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sun 22 January / Jan 2017. 01:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Sun 22 January / Jan 2017. 01:19 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

It is no secret that Jordan is going through a suffocating financial crisis.

What Chief Justice and Emam of the Hashemite Court, Sheikh Ahmad Hilayel, said during the Friday sermon in his speech that Jordan is suffocating, is true; as he called upon our Gulf brethren to lend a hand.

We all know it. The world knows it. It is common knowledge nowadays that Jordan’s foremost difficult challenge is economic.

Basically, Hilayel’s sermon entailed an implicit announcement that the Arab —Gulf— Grant will be suspended, which only adds salt to an already infected wound; since the public budget has been relying on the Gulf Grant over the years to finance capital expenditure.

Putting it out there is not the problem.

The Sheikh’s mistake, however, is getting up on a religious tribune to call for help for Jordan, now, before it’s too late, in such a manner that provoked Jordanians, officials too, despite their realisation of how much Jordan needs these funds under the circumstance.

The result, of course, was as expected of the proud Jordanian; the public, crazed, launched an attack against him, for what he did and said, notwithstanding social media activists across the Arab Gulf, wondering why their countries have been “wasting” public resources on Jordan, according to some of them.

Typically, some clarification is in order; these “Grants” are not charity, as many would like to think. Jordan’s indispensable geo-political role on so many frontiers and on many issues has earned the Kingdom these funds, prime of which is Jordan’s role in countering terrorism.

Hilayel’s speech, nonetheless, is another issue. A government official, who was obviously upset by the precedent, confirmed that Justice Hilayel was not asked to get up on that platform and say what he said; that he was expressing only himself.

That said, politicians too are worried by the same matter irking the Sheikh’s sleep. But with all due respect, this is not how it’s done.

There are diplomatic and political channels designed for these particulars, and they do not include mosques and religious tribunes, but rather offices, departments, and ministries in charge of securing grants and aid; ministers whose duties and tasks include managing foreign funding and loans, particularly the Minister of State for Foreign and Expatriate Affairs, the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, and the Prime Minister, respectively.

On another note, as controversial as this sermon is, it does however raise —once again— another critical issue; dependency.

If we as sovereign state do not rid ourselves of dependency on our “allies” and donors, there will surely come a day when our allies and donors decide themselves to just stop, as easy and simple as that. The possible suspension of the Gulf Grant omens that, which totalled USD4 billion over 4 years, excluding Qatar’s unmet share of USD1 billion.

Since 2012, Jordan has been relying on receiving USD1 billion annually, until the time came for Gulf States to address their own economies.

Sadly, the reasons Gulf States have put out for not renewing the Grant —due mainly to the sharp decline in global oil prices, opposed by increased military expenditures— is unconvincing. For, what are a few hundred million dollars to economies worth hundreds of billions of dollars each?

Equally troubling, Donal Trump’s post-inauguration speech highlighted something very important; he said that his country has paid ransom amounts of money for countries around the world, without getting their money’s worth!

Frankly, it is a little uncomforting, coming from a president who is in the least unpredictable, especially when it comes to issues regarding the Arab region, with Jordan being second on the United States’ list of aid-recipient countries, all the while the US being the Kingdom’s top donor.

As we stand on the edges of a new historic, political phase, with the world changing, and subsequently Jordan’s foreign relations and polices, so should our economic strategy; we can no longer be under the mercy of grants, aid, and donations that may be accounted for one day and out the next.

We need to balance out our interests, the pay-offs of our relationships, and their sustainability, objectively, by putting Jordan first; which means that we need to establish a fundamental shift in our economic discourse.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.