In Gold They Trust

A whirlwind of speculations and denials unleashed by an alleged gold discovery has again got us asking who’s really to blame for the low level of trust between Jordanians and their government?

The Economist- Yusuf Mansur

For yet another dispiriting sign of just how little trust the Jordanian public now has in its government, look no further than the recent hullabaloo surrounding the alleged discovery of a priceless underground stash of Roman gold and artifacts in one of Jordan’s most disadvantaged governorates.

The treasure trove was supposedly uncovered in Ajloun near the village of Herkilia, which was named after Heraclius, the last Roman Emperor of Syria. Word of the find spread like wildfire on the Internet, with images of golden statues being bandied about on social media sites, along with outlandish estimations that their worth ran into the billions of dollars.

True to past form, the government immediately issued a barrage of muddled and contradictory statements which all aimed to deny the existence of the find, but which, like with so many denials before, failed to quell the public’s suspicions that something was being hidden from them.

The government will surely heap the blame for this breakdown of trust and respect for authority firmly on the already stooped shoulders of the average Jordanian. But ministers might be comforted to learn that people all over the world seem to be losing faith in their government officials, too.

People’s trust in government according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer (a survey of 27,000 people from 27 countries via 20 minute online interviews) is down to 44 percent from 52 percent in 2011. This trust is also at an all time low in huge, well-established Western democracies such as Spain (14 percent), Italy (18 percent), and France (20 percent). Interestingly, according to the same survey, trust in businesses has been rising at an almost steady rate; 50 percent of those surveyed expressed trust in businesses in 2009, compared to 58 percent in 2014—the same percentage it enjoyed in 2013. Moreover, 79 percent of respondents believed that governments shouldn’t be working alone, and 74 percent believed that businesses should be involved in formulating regulations, particularly in relation to energy and food industries.

So why are the feelings of the government in Jordan so hurt about losing the trust of Jordanians? After all, it doesn’t require the trust of the people since they didn’t elect it. It never sought the people’s support, but forced one issue after another down their collective throat: from raising fuel derivative prices, energy tariffs, refusing to spend the GCC funds in a timely manner, to pushing ahead with a deal to import gas from Israel.