Jumana Ghunaimat

How Do Jordanians Interpret Waste?

تم نشره في Sat 20 February / Feb 2016. 06:55 PM

A considerable part of public funds is wasted in various ways. Former Minister of Finance Dr. Umayya Touqan confirmed in one of his statements to the press that 15-20 per cent of public spending is wasted. And until this very day, the government has yet to rectify in the slightest forms, any aspects in this respect. They do, however, have an explanation; that public budgeting is not target or result oriented, which means that public expenditure is not guided correctly. This in turn leads to pointless waste of resources, particularly in terms of public service levels of education, health and infrastructure.

Jordanians, and because of the general distrust in the government, have their own strongly held interpretations and explanations. Their view on the matter does not shift no matter how diligently the government tries to explain waste in public spending, especially since living standards in Jordan did not progress. On the contrary, the level and quality of life for Jordanians has declined; many public service sectors —most importantly education, are dropping in quality, as the Kingdom’s performance in this regard indicates decline compared to other once-lagging Arab countries, that are now gaining momentum by various education performance indices.

This to Jordanians indicates, according to dangerous but steadfast convictions that may not necessarily be true, that official corruption and manipulation of public treasury and funds are the most important reasons why public money is being wasted.

Corruption in Jordan, however, is split into known “financial” and other “administrative” discourses that on the prior do not waste as much as people seem to believe, but on the latter —notably, cause the deterioration that is eating at many institutions with financial relations to the public. This particularly resulted in the manifestation of “petty corruption”.

Tax-payer frustration, due to the limited impact of public expenditure on their lives, deepens their conviction that their money is being stolen, with utter rejection of the true explanation, that public spending is simply misguided. Added to the absence of indices to measure achievements on the ground, accountability for financial waste as well as theft.

Another explanation —according strong popular thought, is that Jordanian officiala often misuse their public offices to achieve personal gains. This, unfortunately, is not a shrinking phenomenon; indeed, it is growing, and with total disregard to how the public perceive such practices.

There are many instances on this specific kind of corruption; it starts with bids that depend on how influential bidders are, and ends with certain deals made to pass legislations.

What is dangerous about this particular line of corruption and its impact on wasteful public spending, is that it is still acceptable to most of the Country’s political elites, and is practiced without any form of discretion; they seem to be superficially convinced that they’re not corrupt simply because they do not directly nick money out of the treasury nor have commissions from related exchanges deposited in their personal bank accounts.

Favourism on the other hand, is also still practiced publically, and is still socially acceptable.

These truths are imperative; they cannot be put aside. Financial contracts struck are of immense value and magnitude. Corrupted, discrete employment of tens of thousands of Jordanians is a major reason behind wasted spending and capacity side-lining.

Rotating officials across positions and the marginalisation of youth is another primary reason why people lack faith in the practices and decisions of both the executive and legislative authorities of Jordan. This also perpetuates and deepens the Country’s incapability to create new elites with the ability to restore trust in the Government; this wrecks the mechanisms of socio-political reproduction.

Waste is more dangerous than corruption. Having the state spend so much money without having the slightest positive impact on the public, only instils further the notion that official corruption in Jordan is here to stay.

Jordan is a small country, and nothing remains hidden. Stories over officials exploiting their positions and the massive profits they make, reinforce public convictions over corruption, whether true or totally figments of societal imagination.