Let the economic reforms come first

تم نشره في Wed 21 May / May 2014. 11:51 AM - آخر تعديل في Wed 21 May / May 2014. 11:52 AM

By Fahed Khitan

The popular, demanding, movements have picked up pace during the last period, after it had faded for a not-too-short period. The last two weeks have seen a series of labor strikes and sit-ins, that reached vital sectors and strategic facilities, like the petroleum refinery — the engineers of which are still staging an open sit-in — and workers sit-in before the phosphate company. In the past two days, the protest movement escalated among the farmers of the Jordan Valley. Just a few days ago, the teachers union waved escalatory steps if the package does not meet their demands.

These tirelessly demanding movements remind us of a similar situation in the Kingdom during the first year of the so-called Arab Spring (2011); not even that, but protest movements sometimes preceded the popular movements demanding reforms, and often the political movements leaned on the demands of the street.

At that stage, which lasted until the end of the year 2012, that government and its affiliated companies did not delay responding to the demands of the workers and staff, and cost the treasury huge amounts of money. But the high cost of living in Jordan took care of the increases in salaries, and the majority of the popular sectors found themselves in a tight spiral case again, appealed again to the street.

However, the situation is radically different this time; the government which adopted the harshest austerity programs, and reduced social support to the lowest level possible, is not ready at all to dispel what it sees as the achievements that spared the country a catastrophic situation, and will not make any concessions, as did the governments before, let alone that the public finances of the state does not allow it to move in such a margin.

Perhaps the government is right in being adamant; experience has shown that if the door of concessions opens, it will not be possible to close it; as soon as a group of employees or workers make a gain, another will initiate a strike and a sit-in, in anticipation of a similar gain.

But the most important truth is that the vast majority of the social forces are struggling to keep the minimum elements of a decent living. If the engineers of the petroleum refinery and the workers of the phosphate company are not among these categories as indicated by their salaries, the teachers and the junior staff and workers lead it without a doubt.

The increases, incentives, and restructuring did not solve the problem, as evidenced by the continuing popular discontent from the pressures of life. That means we are in front of a problem that needs an economic solution, not partial solutions in response to the pressures of these demands.

We are facing a thorny equation where we must choose one end; either the government should adopt policies that mitigate the cost of the life of citizens, or resort to raise the economic measures of their ability to fulfill their growing obligations.

Any vision to face the dilemma of the Jordanian economy should take into account this equation. And any plans to revive the economy and improve the standard of living of citizens will not be successful, if it does not address this problem.

The politicians, officials, and statesmen see that the priority in Jordan is the economic reform rather than the political. So what; the door is open before you to achieve any substantial breakthroughs according to your own priorities.

Perhaps the workers and farmers have been convinced of this opinion, and returned to demonstrate and protest in the streets not to demand political reform and amend the election law, but to demand economic reform and improvements in the standard of living, as you claim.

@fahed_khitan

 

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.

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