What is it that really rattles our government when citizens declare their intention to boycott a product certain when its price rises irrationally or a certain private sector service which costs way too much for citizens to afford?
In free market economies, citizen boycotting is a highly effective weapon used by consumers to force companies and service providers to lower their prices and control the marketplace, ever since the government abandoned its role in these regards.
Years after the initiation of economic reforms in Jordan, the Ministry of Supply was dismantled, leaving it for the supply-demand dynamic to organically set price floors and ceiling for all commodities, save for the basic foodstuff, which is a very limited selection of goods.
However, with waves of price hikes over the years driving costs through the roof, the department of Supply was integrated to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, in an attempt to comfort the public in regards to the absence of the government’s role in price control. Still, the role of the Ministry in price controls is barely visible in the market; the index issue the Ministry publishes for produce is not obligatory, and the Ministry really has no authority to drive down prices.
Likewise is the situation in most parts of the world.
As a result, civic organisations surged to defend consumers’ rights to obtain services and commodities for fair prices.
In Jordan, The Jordan National Society for Consumer Protection (NSCP) was established. Still, as important as its role is, it hardly has the popular basis to enforce price control measure on the local marketplace, let alone the international market.
Ironically, as the government subtly rejects the idea and calls of boycotting, which have gone viral on all kinds of social media platforms, prime ministers before had so many times encouraged people to actually boycott products to force down the prices. And if one goes back through Jordan’s press archives over the last two decades, they’d surely find what confirms it!
Nothing has changed, notably, over the years, except that the purchasing power of the people has noticeably shrunk. That was on the expense of the average quality of life.
Typically, the government has no influence on the market, hence, the citizen stands alone!
Recently, public opinion surveys, carried out by specialised Jordanian and foreign centres, have found that the increasing cost of living is the most troubling issue for citizens in Jordan.
In a more recent study, food security has now become an issue for quite a sum of Jordanians.
The fundamental reason why wide social segments of our society find it difficult to put food on the table is no less than the unbelievable increase in costs of living, which is way beyond the incomes of most of Jordan’s employed population.
Even before the government’s recent decisions to hike taxes, complaints on the high cost of living and skyrocketing prices were vastly present, and have nothing to do, at least not directly, with the government’s recent economic and financial policies. And the campaign against chicken eggs and potatoes, launched via Facebook, is one example on it.
It may be difficult to coordination national campaigns; the Jordanian society has not come to the advanced level of auto-coordination and there are not popular bodies to organise movements between cities, towns and major governorates.
However, campaigns can be effectively organised throughout neighbourhoods which usually have a supply hub near their houses.
Within a contained residential area it is easy to coordinate among residents, to pressure shops to lower prices or let them rot.
That said, it is the people’s right to interfere in the pricing dynamic in the absence of a reference with the capacity and will to pull its weight.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.