There is no doubt that the Jordanian public is increasingly disengaged from local political news, particularly when it comes to changes to Cabinet and the re-shuffling of Ministers. With frequent changes, public opinion is forming that there is no real value to these continuous changes. The average number of Ministers in each four-year term is around 70, some of which come and go without any clear outcomes, or reasons why they were added or removed from Cabinet.
While the official reasons often given for changes to Ministers include improving the outcomes of Government or bringing in expertise to meet some emerging challenge, the lack of productivity or effective outcomes of public policy over the years is a clear problem for any incoming government, or minister. A new path is necessary to develop effective policies that yield clear outcomes for citizens and the country.
Jordanians traditionally used to follow the public news and had a positive perception of their institutions, including the military and security services. But in recent years, there has been a growing perception of corruption because of failed economic policies and a growing opinion that the system only represents the few who are in power. This has generated negative public opinion and perceptions of government representation. If the next Cabinet sees appointments of what the public perceive to be more of a representative group, then political and government stability could be achieved. Cabinet portfolios should also be linked to a long-term strategy that is implemented and progressed during each term of government according to its mandate.
Bridging the gap between citizens and the government and getting people more engaged with public policies can only be achieved by impacting people’s daily lives from improving the economic situation to the services that they receive. It is imperative to focus more on real achievements rather than superficial changes. Public policies should be subject to observation and inquiry of the legislature and public opinion, highlighting the good work and pointing out mistakes, so lessons can be learned, and they can be avoided in the future. This is the only way to make people feel more engaged, and ensure officials are held to account, so they know they only hold these positions to achieve positive change for the country and its citizens, not just to enjoy the privileges of office.
Regardless of changes in government, there should be policy pillars built on the foundations of what Jordanian society really needs. Concrete interventions on the ground and practical steps in the social, educational, and cultural spheres are required. A state agenda should prioritise education, but this should be seen from a broad perspective and cultural shift to introduce concepts of diversity, equality, and pluralism. Broadening the minds and perspectives of our citizens should be the target of any educational reform or cultural initiatives.
Continuing with the same policies and approach to government will doom the country to repeating mistakes of the past and will never achieve change. Given the likelihood of elections next year and the potential for a new government, there is an opportunity for an incoming government to adopt policies that are based on the reality of the domestic, regional, and international situation. There is no doubt that security must always be a priority of the state, but this should not be limited to addressing criminality and terrorism anymore, political stability must also be addressed through inclusive strategies. Creating a national narrative and building cultural change should be at the top of any national security agenda.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh