The Perils Within…

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Mon 1 May / May 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Numbers do not lie. More so, they unveil reality, and expose the facts hidden between the lines.

This is exactly what our colleague Samah Beibars did, in her report on the status of poverty pockets around the Kingdom over the last 15 years.

Above all, the figures in the report, based on official data, confirms, beyond any doubt, that poverty was never on the government’s priorities.

Among other things, the information presented proves that all the government’s promises, strategies and plans, have failed to alleviate the conditions of 12 different provinces.

In 15 years, since 2002 to be precise, 14 different governments have come and gone, and still, the calamity of the impoverished Jordanian grows.

All the statements by prime ministers, one after the other, all their intentions, to counter poverty have gone with the wind.

Wadi Araba, Ruwaished, Ghour Safi, Huseinieh, Mureighah, Salhya, Deir Kahf, Duleil, Gweira, Deir Alla, Umm al Jimal, and Jafr, all of these provinces, up until the most recent poverty study in 2010, have been classified as impoverished areas.

In more recent official documents, the government has classified those very same areas, in 2016, as provinces in most need for developmental intervention.

Before 2002, the government had never considered poverty hotbeds in Jordan.

It was not until then, with the initiation of the underway socio-economic transmutation, that the government began to realise the scale of the people’s calamity.

There are at least 20 provinces across Jordan, according to official data, where no less than 25 per cent of the people are impoverished.

Generally speaking, the situation has not bettered for anyone, sort of speak, over the last five years. And it certainly did not for the residents of those areas.

None of the strategized plans and partial blueprints has seen the light.

All in all, there is a myopic short-sightedness to the governments’ approach on how to tackle the expansion of this troubling phenomenon.

This shortcoming, to make it worse, comes at this most desperate time for Jordan, under the new financial reforms programme, in accordance to the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Meanwhile, the government does not seem to be worried, when in fact, the increase of impoverishment and the decline of household income should be the Cabinet’s most irking issue.

This is not merely due to the economic implications and percussions of a deteriorating lifestyle, no. It should be quite vexing for a variety of other, related, but more dangerous reasons.

The impoverishment of a mass demographic reflects mainly on the public sentiment, driving discontent and frustration.

That, in turn, raises violence, crime rates, and deepens the sense of exclusion and marginalisation.

A fruitful reminder, it would be, to recall to ourselves the results of extended marginalisation and side barring.

It will not be a pretty sight, should the standing situation endure, let alone worsen, for that matter.

Right now, two main factors increment on the mass sense of exclusion; the increase in poverty, and the failure to meet the needs of the poor and save them from further deterioration.

Notably too, this deterioration is no longer exclusive to the lower income segment of our society. The corrosion is eating at so other classes, including the middle class, which only means that the situation has become far more complicated, economically.

The poor can be helped by increasing welfare. The sense of falling further into poverty, exclusion, however, and the government’s failure to alleviate poverty, is a far deeper problem.

Jordanians in general, feel more excluded now than ever.

Typically, this is due to their fixed and limited incomes, over the years, which are also eroding due to increasing taxation and price hikes, which have rendered their incomes insufficient for the mundane needs of daily lives.

Between the threats from the northern borderline and those westbound from the east, decision makers seem to be confused, or rather maybe blinded, to the perils within.

There is a pressing domestic threat, from the hearts of those poverty hotbeds; rising from the midst of the simple folk, who see only dismissal and disregard by official policy makers. All they know is that the government has failed, is short-sighted, incompetent, and incapable of helping them.

More than anything, many Jordanians feel abandoned, left fend for their own, all alone.

It gets even worse, as the government has yet to change its ways, despite everything that has happened, and everything yet to come.

So far, nothing in reality has been done to effectively address, or at least contain the phenomenon, which is rapidly spreading.

The financial allocations set to fund the official effort to combat poverty is far from sufficient, compared to the outstanding rate of impoverishment. Neither are the target growth rates, let alone the attained growth in GDP.

None of it is enough to lower either one of the problematic rates of poverty and unemployment.

Those among us, not far from us, in other governorates as well as in the outskirts of the Capital, seem to be struggling in oblivion.

The official dismissal of the impoverished demographic is outstanding, that is besides the ill distribution of gross income, and the lack of opportunities and jobs, which only complicates an already dangerous situation.

Needless to say, this makes them a real threat to Jordan, and renders impoverished communities susceptible to polarisation and recruitment by violent extremism.

Be it for salvation or for the sake of channeling mass frustration and fury, the worse of it will come, if nothing fundamental is done, to alleviate poverty and include the impoverished population.

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