How the Government Lost the People!

By Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Sun 5 February / Feb 2017. 01:00 AM
  • Fahed Khitan

The recent public opinion survey by the University of Jordan (UJ) Centre for Strategic Studies shows that the government’s popularity has gone down significantly, before the decisions to increase taxes and hike prices were announced.

Ironically, I think the government has lost more ‘fans’ before the decisions to raise taxes on fuels and oil derivatives was announced than after!

Simply speaking, the topic had hung a little too long over citizens’ heads like a shadow of lingering issue; all through the Budget Bill debates in parliament, and for an extended period of time, which seemed like an eternity of endless discussions, until the Budget was finally passed and these decisions were finalised —somewhat.

Meanwhile, these “suggestions” which have now become ratified “decisions” have been circulated in the media.

Another example on how this untimeliness hurts the government’s popularity is the currently ongoing debate over alternatives for the internet and telecommunication taxation amendment suggestions. This has been going on for two weeks!

Not a single option has been left out of the discussion. A news report published by AlGhad, one week ago, give and take, said that there are 9 possible scenarios being discussed at the moment. A few days later, they were shrunk into three.

All the while, the virtual world was swarming with heated debate against these suggestion, even though no final decision had been announced.

Mind you that so far until this day, no decision has been made on the matter!

In the meantime, taxations on cellular and internet services took up discussions in ways no other cause has ever seen, and that is because it directly affects the interests of millions of mobile phone and social media platform users.

That actually drove thousands to join boycotting campaigns all over; be it eggs, potatoes, or telecommunication companies alike.

What they all have in common is that they all affect the lives of citizens directly.

As a result, the snowball rolled a little too long, a little too big.

In fact, it rolled much bigger than anyone anticipated it could; it even outgrew the scale of the decisions themselves.

Eventually, these campaigns sort of derailed down a more unsettling path, which ended —sadly— with numerous activists arrested and the boycott pages on Facebook shut.

All that is simply due to the official short-sightedness; the government rushed into the ring, lacking clarity and knowledge of what they wanted to achieve from it!

To add to the complexity of the situation, it seemed obvious that some officials have adopted challenging views, standing against raising taxes all together!

Mindfully, the suggestion to raise internet sales taxes was brought to government by the House of Representatives. But on their part, our Ministries just took it for granted, when in truth neither our MPs nor our Government had the slightest clue on what to do next.

Likewise, the MPs first suggestion, to add a JOD1 fee for every cellular subscription, was massively rejected by the people. So, they walked away from it left the government fencing for other alternatives!

Naturally, there is no better time than this for populist opposition to grow in protest against the totality of government inclinations and their economic proposition. It is only natural for the majority of the citizenry to oppose price hikes! However, this time, the intensity of opposition had gone through the roof when the debate turned into an open public discussion; no clear plan or roadmap, which allowed for some to exploit it.

Additionally, the MP-Government discord only added salt to the wound, especially given the lack of common rhetoric and the evident lack of healthy communication.

This is how the government lost the people.

Despite austerity measures placed by the government to control expenses, none of it calmed the general negativity, which has predominated for weeks, to the point that it has all become too much to overcome, even if the government goes back on all of its decisions!

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