Between a rock and a hard place: are poor fiscal policies perpetuating poverty in Jordan?

Published March 9th, 2014 - 12:00 GMT

Jordan is beset by many challenges and crises. Among them, the high rate of inflation and a dramatic increase in poverty rates.

At the same time, there is no denying that Jordan stands among the most expensive countries to live in.

This is not conducive to security and stability, or to luring investment to the country.

It is axiomatic that severe economic hardships are a prescription for a significant rise in the crime rates and, at one stage or another, may set the environment for the onslaught of terrorism.

Very few Jordanians are spared the painful pinch that comes with the rise in the cost of living, most acutely felt by the poor and the middle class.

I was once commissioned by the UN to make a study on the connection between poverty and terrorism worldwide. There was really no need for any such study, since the link between the two is too clear not to be seen.

Yet, despite the dangers to the security and stability of the country, the government appears forced to adopt severe austerity measures, including ending subsidies on essential goods, raising taxes across the board and increasing the fuel prices in order to contain the budget deficit and qualify for soft loans from international monetary institutions.

The government indeed finds itself between a rock and a hard place.

This presumes, however, that the government has exhausted all avenues for making ends meet. I, however, do not think that this is the case.

I still find many bureaucracies functioning when in fact there is no pressing reason for them and examples of waste abound.

Take for example the Constitutional Court and the Economic and Social Council. Neither one is really necessary. It is quite obvious to most jurists that the jurisdiction of the Court of Cassation can easily be expanded to rule on constitutional issues, as indeed is the case in many advanced countries, including the US.

Why, then, bear the extra cost to have yet another court?

The Economic and Social Council is also redundant. It would be appropriate to have such a body if the national budget were in better shape.

On another front, we still send big delegations to represent us in foreign lands when a much lower number would do just the same.

I dare say also that the number of diplomats can be considerably reduced at our embassies without really compromising the discharge of essential duties, especially in the era of information technology.

Despite all efforts to halt the use of official vehicles for private use, they are still being used on a wide scale.

These are only a few examples of waste; perhaps more important ones can be found.

Without reducing the fat governmental expenditures, the national deficit can only worsen.

And when cost of production is increased in a phenomenal way, entrepreneurs are driven out of business.

Irrespective of what the government chooses to do, there is need to increase awareness about the dangers of continuing to disregard the relationship between poverty and high costs of living, on one hand, and crime and terrorism, on the other.

By Walid M. Sadi


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