Who is Really in Charge: the IMF or the Government?

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Wed 20 September / Sep 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

The Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, Jihad Azour, and accompanying delegation, just concluded their visit to Jordan.

During their brief, 2-day visit, the IMF’s delegation met with all the Jordanian officials in charge of implementing the agreed Financial Reforms programme.

This time, the delegation’s visit to Jordan was pre-scheduled, months ago. The message it carried, this time too, was distinct from all previous IMF visits.

Obviously too, the conditions of their visit are also different.

Between our government, whose belief is unwavering in the Fund’s experts, and the people who cannot handle, and even oppose, further excisions, tension is domestically building.

The domestic scene is unravelling under the pressure of two opposing views, pushing for two different solutions; the people and the government, and the IMF’s visit, could not have come at a better time!

Officially, the government made no comment on the outcomes of the deliberations, not even a welcoming statement, on the delegation’s visit, to shed light on our options. Even in regards to how the Treasury is hoping to sum up the additional allocations; nothing.

Notably, as accustomed to the government’s discretion and secrecy as we are, it is both uncalled for and unjustified.

As for the IMF, despite their super packed, precise schedule, they actually managed to make time for the media, to enlighten the public.

Unlike our government, the IMF believes in the role of independent media in the shaping and construction of the public’s perception.

So, the Fund made time to meet with us, at AlGhad, to discuss, in as much as they could spare, their role in advancing financial reforms.

Of course, the interview was aired live via AlGhad’s website and Facebook page, to communicate the Fund’s take on the matter directly to the Jordanian public.

Mr Azour, the head of the delegation, was appointed director of the IMF’s regional operations nearly a year and a half ago.

At one point, he served as Lebanon’s Minister of Finance, and he had quite a few things to say.

While Jordanians in general view the Fund as the devil taking away their hard-earned salaries, keeping us up all night, the truth is not entirely so.

We need to admit, first and foremost, that our governments have played no small part in our economic, financial downfall.

In fact, our consecutive governments have drained our funds dry and resources to waste.

Had our ministers and officials not made so many mistakes, the IMF’s visit would be only to confirm the soundness of the Treasury’s financial situation.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Despite their unilateral, partial approach to development, unemployment, youth, preserving the middle class, and society as a whole, the fact is: this is not entirely the IMF’s doing!

More so, we were once in the IMF’s lap, not so long ago, but we pulled through.

Sadly, due to our governments’ many failures and shortcomings, we are right back where we started.

Azour made it clear that the IMF is indeed trying to protect the vulnerable and lower-income segments of society in Jordan.

He explained that the Fund has made several suggestions to advance social safety and security programmes, to support these segments.

Whether or not they are doing enough to keep our society from crumbling, we do not know.

Poverty is on the rise; by a landslide, the middle class is eroding, and many youths are still unemployed.

As a result of our government’s withdrawal, hesitation, and shortcoming, our relationship with the Fund will always be confusing and unsettling to us; the public.

The people’s perception of the Fund’s role will never change unless our government pushes more comprehensive, all-encompassing reforms; ones that are inclusive and tangible.

Reality check: everybody has to pay for the costly mistakes of public policy.

In the meantime, since the crisis is so deep that it may need three to four reform programmes to recover from it, the IMF should best find more sustainable approaches to the problem.

The Fund’s administration should focus a little less on the figures and more on the people.

Maybe, by adopting a more society-oriented perspective, the IMF could help advance less damaging solutions to protect our society.

One thing was made inarguably clear by their visit, though, which is that the Fund is not imposing any solutions or proposals on our government.

According to Mr Azour, the government is responsible for providing solutions and plans to attaining the performance goals of the programme.

Still, the IMF expects the government to attain these goals; how the government chooses to do so is for the government to decide, not the Fund.

Now that this is out of the way, it is time the government shares with us, the people, their ideas as to how they intend to collect the additional JOD450 million. Before finalising the agreement in October, and before the Budget Bill is finalised for review by parliament in November, we need to know.

The people have the right to be informed; to know what is coming, before it hits us.

More so, we need to be part of it.

For a change, maybe the government should try communicating with us, instead of keeping us in the dark, until the usual “fait accompli”.

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