Rebuild Trust

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sat 30 September / Sep 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

There has been an evident increase in the public’s awareness of the importance of public property and funds.

Society is beginning to understand and appreciate the concept of the Taxpayer’s rights.

Of course, there is a gap between the public’s perception of these rights and the official institution’s unchecked approach to governance.

Needless to say, the government’s irresponsible and indifferent persistence to disregard the people has only deepened the public’s discontent.

Officials don’t get it; taxpayers have rights.

The people’s awareness and sense of moral responsibility is growing, no doubt, particularly towards the use of public resources and funds.

Meanwhile, the government’s approach remains adamant to the idea of good governance and that citizens and taxpayers would anything to do with public policy.

Not a single official or minister, for instance, has ever submitted their resignation to heed the demands of the Jordanian taxpayer, despite popular demands.

In many other parts of the world, this concept comprises the cornerstone of the state-citizen relationship.

In the United States of America, the Secretary of Health, Tom Price, was forced to resign last Friday, having commissioned high cost private jets on 26 of his official work travels. Even though the Department of Health confirmed the “legality” of the expenses, that didn’t change anything.

Simply because some of the destinations logged were to cities where Price had owned houses, the department’s defence was popularly dismissed.

His 26 logged trips, since the beginning of 2017, cost the treasury nearly USD400 thousand, as opposed to millions cited as official expenses here in Jordan.

It took no more than five democratic congressmen to force Price’s resignation.

Their case was that there are plenty of airlines with routes along the East Coast between Washington and Philadelphia. He could have gotten on any of them, instead of commissioning a USD25 thousand private jet.

Millions maybe are officially spent here in Jordan on luxurious extravagance for purposes serving nothing but show, despite the financial crisis. Officials and ministers still fly first-class or commission private jets, accompanied by an outrageously oversized staff. Not to mention government cars provocatively roaming the streets, burning fuel paid by the taxpayer.

As simple as it is, the concept of the Taxpayer’s Rights carries great consequence on the citizen-state relationship.

The more attention governments give to the taxpayer, the more they heed the taxpayer’s demands, and the more citizens respect the government.

However, the more indifferent the government is to the citizen’s needs and demands; to the taxpayer’s opinion, the more distrustful the public gets.

Naturally, distrust and discontent can have catastrophic consequences.

On the other hand, rebuilding trust with the public requires at least, that our governments adhere to the Taxpayer’s Rights principle.

It helps increase citizen inclusion and builds public engagement, skyrocketing public participation in policymaking, and the results are higher representation and coherent policies that are agreeable to the people.

More so, it increases citizen oversight, and propagates the idea of moral responsibility.

Much can be gained, for all of us, our country above all, from empowering the idea of citizen responsibility and participation.

Eventually, it will catalyse the positive transformation of the concept of public service. It makes the public sector a place of accountability instead of a place of irresponsible, unchecked, corruptible authority.

The concept of the public servant is checked only by the authority of oversight and accountability, entailed by the concepts of Taxpayer’s Rights to decide where their money goes.

This, in the end, reduces the public servant to a person devoted to serving people and their interests, instead of the untouchable power and entitlement that comes with appointments in the public sector these days.

The point is that raising taxation and excisions will only provoke the public, so long as it does not come with tight and extreme austerity measures.

In the absence of real moral and legal responsibility and accountability in the public sphere, no matter how hard the government tries to convince the public, they will not swallow it.

Notably, there is an abundance of evidence on excessive, needless spending people see every day, out on the streets and within the halls of public bodies.

That aside, there is tax evasion to consider, which is draining hundreds of millions. How many cases were dismissed without anybody ever being held accountable for any of it?!

The absence of transparency and governance isn’t helping.

We have a pile of unresolved cases, and the only way to rebuild trust is by advancing the measures of transparency and disclosure.

More importantly, the government needs to respect the rights of taxpayers, and manage public resources and funds far more wisely, and under greater oversight!

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