By Jumana Ghunaimat

The Reality of Poverty in Jordan

The official poverty count in Jordan has been undisclosed for years now.

Surely, the government did not withhold this piece of information because the number of impoverished Jordanian has decline, on contraire. It is not like the poverty count in Jordan has indeed declined due to exceptional growth rate the government’s effective economic policies.

The purpose of withholding the rates of poverty, impoverishment and food security in Jordan is to cover up the government’s failure to alleviate their suffering.

Instead of opening up about the facts of the many Jordanians who are suffering impoverishment, the government decided to keep this information all to itself!

 How does we expect Jordanians to ever believe their government even cares about the poor or their suffering, if the government dares not even admit to the scale of the problem?

All we have are estimates, dating back to 2010, based on the census done in 2008.

Nearly a decade has passed since the last census.

Nothing says more about the status of impoverished Jordanians; they are neglected and marginalised. Not worthy, in the government’s eyes, of even a study or census.

Surely, they are not doing better now that ten years, almost, have passed since the last census. And surely this fact alone is infuriating, let alone the reality of their calamity.

For some reason, the government has turned the blind eye to what is obviously a great source of threat to our security, socially as well as economically.

Put aside the foreign assessments of our predicament, based on what little information we have, let us try to estimate the scale of poverty in Jordan.

The 2010 report, based on the 2008 census, indicates a 1.1 per cent increase in poverty rate, from 13.3 per cent to 14.4 per cent, over the duration of one year. Now, mind you, these are estimates predating the world financial crisis, the surge in oil prices and the following Arab Spring, not to mention the suffocating economic repercussions of it all. These estimates also fail to factor in the de-facto economic embargo, with the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Since then, Jordan underwent two economic and fiscal reform programmes with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The first was implemented under Dr Abdullah Nsoor’s government, and entailed a number of difficult economic decisions, including floating fuel prices. And the second, still ongoing, was initiated by the current government of Dr Hani Mulqi, leading up to the recent decisions to de-subsidise bread and over a hundred other commodities, on top of the tax revamps.

Mind you that in 2013/2014, the government conducted an income census but did not disclose the results of the survey, the poverty rate above all.

Instead, they tried to justify withholding this information, as government officials confirmed to AlGhad that the rate of poverty has indeed exceeded 20 per cent. Meanwhile, not a single government official had the courage to comment on it.

The government has long neglected the poor and paid no mind, whatsoever, to the middle class. It tried to make up for this by installing a frail social security net that offers next to nothing, really.

Nothing the government did over these past few years has helped the poor or prevented the erosion of borderline middle class income households. Not to mention our failure to develop vocational education and training and expand the economy to create more jobs.

Now, Jordanians have to deal with the skyrocketing prices and all the tax hikes, both direct and indirect.

More than 75 per cent of Jordanian households make no more than 350 Jordanian dinars a month.  How on earth will they manage a decent, dignified life? Let alone comfortable!

Jordanians have endured so much of the repercussions of concurrent financial crises, and have paid the price for the government’s failure to the development Jordanians are promised. For years the impoverished have been patiently waiting to sow the fruits of development.

The middle class too, is hoping to see the promise of development realised before they also crumble into poverty.

These most recent decisions have driven the prices up for hundreds of commodities and services, followed by yet another increase in power tariffs and transport.

The impoverished, marginalised and limited-income segments of Jordan will suffer the strains of these decisions and who is to tell how bad it is going to be for them!

Still, the government has the audacity to question the motives and reasoning of Jordanians, and wonder why so many are so angry with the government!

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

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