Brand New Parliament, Same Old Challenges

When they’re sworn in later this month, Jordan’s newly-elected parliamentarians will face the same economic problems that bedeviled their predecessors.

By Khalid W. Wazani

By the end of this month a new parliament will be starting a new chapter in Jordan’s constitutional life. As the table below shows, the last session of the lower house handed over a pretty dispiriting set of macroeconomic indicators. The question is, however, whether the newly elected MPs are going to repeat the same mistakes, or are they genuinely serious about improving the economic situation in the Kingdom?

The same tired campaign slogans adopted by most of the candidates hasn’t been a very promising sign that things might be about to change. It would have been better for the newcomers to this political game to concentrate their energy on studying the basic facts of the economic situation in Jordan. First and foremost, the economy needs to grow by no less than 7 percent in real terms for Jordan to start witnessing any drop in unemployment rate. The economy needs to generate some 60,000 more jobs annually. This simply means the focus for any economic plan, including future public budget, should be on growth not austerity measures.

Secondly, for Jordan to start reducing its huge exposure to public debt, a genuine expansion plan that would allow the private sector to get a more active role in the economic life of the country is needed. This plan would also help attract more foreign investments to generate more public revenues for the government, at least through the extra VAT revenue each new employee will start to pay out of their new spending as a result of moving from the unemployment space to the workforce domain.

Thirdly, the Syrian refugee problem isn’t going to be solved anytime soon. This means the parliament should pressure the government to adopt more proactive socio-economic plans to deal with the crisis. Parliament should also try to attract more foreign assistance by enhancing the role of its foreign affairs committee and any other platforms it has at its disposal. Finally, parliament should raise the efficacy of its relevant committees to help control the budget and final accounts of the government, while at the same time ensuring the government does have an economic plan to boost the economy and help achieve a better standard of living for all Jordanians.

This could all easily be done if the newly-elected parliament asked the government to present an executive socio-economic plan that honestly dealt with Jordan’s economic challenges. They can start by asking the government to review the Jordan Vision 2025 and devise an action plan for the coming four years at least.

As for the role you, the electorate, can play, you would be wise to elect anyone who appears to understand these ongoing socio-economic challenges and has a plan on how to work with the government to deal with them.