Jordan is facing difficult issues as a result of a new wave of COVID-19 infections as case numbers increase and a lack of vaccine makes managing those numbers increasingly difficult. While this challenge is by no means limited to Jordan, there have been changes in government with the appointment of Bisher Khasawneh with a specific royal mandate to focus on maintaining the healthcare system, through to agriculture and food security, as well as education and basic services.
The lack of focus on these issues over the last few months have highlighted serious deficiencies in the functioning of the government through the pandemic and addressing them will not be simple. It is of concern that the newly formed government is undergoing a reshuffle, as it was structured in the same old way, despite the new challenges that required a crisis management approach. There were very high expectations for the new prime minister who has been in regular contact with His Majesty over the last few years, across all of the underlying issues, so he was supposed to be in a strong position to take a more positive approach focusing on realistic and productive polices.
The government has an obligation to balance healthcare considerations with enabling as much of the economy to continue to operate and safeguarding citizens’ livelihoods. As cases of COVID increase, there is no room for trials and tests. Poverty and economic pressures are increasing, and there appear to be no workable plans to restart aviation and transportation. As a result, there is a small window for the new government to develop policies and plans to deliver outcomes and build confidence.
While the challenges that Jordan is facing did not originate with COVID-19, the exceptional circumstances have quickly caused them to bubble to the surface. Jordan needs dynamic and innovative strategies to develop policies that can contain the damage on a social and economic level.
Internal stability must be the priority of Jordanian policymakers as social disorder could create fertile ground for serious security risks including organised crime and terrorist groups. This requires a very good understanding of how things are evolving across society, and the tolerance of people to live under lockdowns and restrictions. The lessons learned from the uprising in April 1989 should lead us to what has been done to address the underlying issues that pushed people to take the streets.
Stability of the government and its work are essential to face the current crisis and its implications. This approach requires efficient public institutions and effective bureaucratic skills with a prime minister who can promote and strengthen these critical institutions.
Quality government in the next phase will build vital relations between the private and public sector to pave the way for local investments that satisfy both local needs, employment and supply of critical resources.
Creating the conditions for increased liquidity in the local market is part of the government’s role to develop economic strategies that create incentives for investors not just based on profit but for the national good in times of crisis like this. But if government is unstable through constant change and reshuffling, then it will be impossible to achieve any positive results.
Dr. Amer AL Sabaileh