Is the premier staying?

تم نشره في Wed 26 February / Feb 2014. 08:54 PM - آخر تعديل في Sun 2 March / Mar 2014. 06:03 PM

By Muhammad Aburumman

We have been repeating in the last few days the denial of the premier, to a couple of ministers, that there’s intent for a government reshuffle. He said that these “leaks” are far from the truth! However, this denial, in itself, raises questions beyond a possible reshuffle, and more about the possibility the government itself would stay or not.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, more than anyone else, realizes completely the necessity of a government reshuffle, for many objective reasons; chiefly pumping in new blood into the cabinet, after some ministers have proved to be incompetent in regards to the tasks required by them. For example, there’s a necessity to divide the ministries of labor and tourism under different ministers, after we saw the latter harmed by being handled by the minister of labor. Also, the apparent differences and contrasts in the cabinet lately, and between the premier and some ministers.

To analyze, the lack of a cabinet reshuffle even though there are indicators that it was considered - regardless of how important it may be -  might not reflect the intent of the premier as much as it reflects the fate of the government, or deep disagreement over the nature of the reshuffle.

These indicators are serving blows to the popular belief that “Ensour’s government is staying”, at least until the spring of this year. This belief is also popular among the political elite and the parliamentarians. However, the premier still holds to many power cards, rendering the idea of a change in government unwanted by the “decision makers”.

The main card held by the PM is that he did took the country through a tough and sensitive transitional stage, marching out of the bottleneck, when he lessened the budget’s burdens of the electricity and fuel subsidies, and imposed multiple taxes and fees; policies most of the previous governments could not carry through.

In addition, he still can pass similar policies through the Lower House, and tread this path again.

The second card is the dilemma of the alternative homeland, and the limited amount of people who can fill the gap; by combining both political maneuvering with the MPs and the public on one end, and implementing tough economic agendas on the other.

The third card is the MPs appetite for ministerial positions, which would put the issue of negotiations with the deputies on the ministerial team back on the table.

On the other hand, the key point of weakness for the premier – according to some decision makes – is the economy, specifically what the senator and former Prime Minister Samir Rifai said (in a seminal lecture at the faculty of foreign affairs at the University of Jordan): Government is unable to attract investments and facilitate their work, while the country’s debt exponentially increased during the last three years from JD11.5 billion to more than JD19 billion.

Rifai projected the public debt will be at JD21 billion by the end of the year!

There’s a key reference in Rifai’s talk that constitutes one of the main reasons why Ensour could be changed, regardless of the previous factors. He said: “Continuing in this methodology is unacceptable. Dealing with this risky situation of an increasing debt will not reach to us surpassing the safe limit of public debt only, but to more dangerous consequences”.

This summation of the economic situation is clearly reflected in the private sector’s griping about economic stagnation, making the “decision-makers” worry about what the numbers and indicators mean.

However, the question of leaving or staying is connected to an equation of the pros and cons, politically and economically.

There are, among the political elite, those who still see, until now, that Ensour is the best option we have, compared to the other alternatives! 


This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.