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PM identifies requirements of transformation into a productive nation

By Renad Aljadid - Jun 20,2018 - Last updated at Jun 20,2018

AMMAN — The transformation from a “rentier state” into a “productive” nation requires a “new social contract” between the rulers and the ruled, within the framework of a sustainable civil state that employs its citizens’ potentials and grants them their rights and freedoms, according to a recently published study by Prime Minister Omar Razzaz.  

Among several definitions mentioned in the study of a “rentier state”, the term refers to a state where the sources of rent come from foreign revenues such as oil and foreign aid, and the state is the direct recipient and the base of these revenues.

At the individual level, the rents “break the link between effort and reward”, according to the study, which explains that income and wealth do not come from work, innovation or ventures, but as parts of the “allotments channels” in various forms. These include public sector employment, gifts from the people in power, or private sector tenders, with individuals obtain larger shares of rents as their position go higher. 

In the study titled “From Rent to Production: The Hard Way Towards a New Arab Social Contract”, which was recently published in The New Arab daily, Razzaz, a Harvard PhD graduate and a planning expert, said that the rent system also casts a shadow over the private sector. Here the competition would no longer be on production and the manufacturing of better and cheaper goods and services, but rather on the development of a better clientele relationship with the state symbols so as to obtain a larger share of rents.

Razzaz also said that a real and sustainable transformation towards a “producing state” requires giving control to the society through its elected representatives over the rent sources that have historically been the source of power to despotic authorities. 

The suggested approach includes control over rent sources, investment of revenues in developing a productive economy that generates jobs for citizens, identification of beneficiaries within a social justice framework and the subjection of rents to an “unprecedented” censorship, according to the researcher. 

Razzaz also said that the envisioned state derives its legitimacy and authority from the people and is committed to the democratic principles of fair representation, rotation of power and separation between the three branches of government. 

The study then presents an integrated social contract of seven elements which entails the transformation from tyranny to democracy; from rent authority to national wealth and public finance authority; from a rentier economy to a productive economy; from marginalisation to operation; from subservience to creativity; from rent allotments to income distribution and social protection; and from an Arab sovereign fragmentation to an Arab sovereign bloc.  

“The study does not suggest that there is an ideal social contract or that there is a standard or one-sized contract for all Arab countries,” said the premier, adding that the study, instead, aimed at setting a “normative” framework that explains the connection between the various elements which can be a starting point for a national dialogue that discusses the hoped future.

“The study is very comprehensive and reflects a unique approach of the prime minister who made great achievements while at the Education Ministry,” economist Mazen Irsheid told The Jordan Times on Tuesday, adding: “Raising generations to innovation and critical thinking instead of memorisation and spoon-feeding is the first step towards a real change in the country.”

Irsheid also noted the importance of encouraging industry in Jordan and heading towards production and self-sufficiency. “The imports in Jordan are triple the exports, as, for example, 88 per cent of the foodstuffs and 98 per cent of the energy in Jordan are imported.”

For politician, researcher and youth advocate Maen Shamaileh, “the creation of a new social contract is difficult and rife with challenges, but the reformulation of the existing one in a way that satisfies all parties is a more attainable goal”.   

“The social contract should be set through a horizontal approach that involves all the society’s segments, civil society organisations and youth,” Shamaileh told The Jordan Times.

He agreed with Razzaz on the importance of parallel political and economic reforms as politics and economy go hand in hand.

He also stressed that offering education and job opportunities to youth is only one aspect, while the core issue is empowering them to lead, work and make a real change.

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Comments

Dr. Razzaz’ recommendations are a breath of fresh air! He sets out a vision that will help Jordanians to become active participants in charting their own futures, as well as that of the country. When I watch groups of friends pooling funds to purchase passive investments, often an apartment building, I see that it’s an important source of funds for future university education of their children. But at the same time, that investment is likely to create just one job (haras), and I begin to think ‘what if they’d bought a factory or created a restaurant instead? How many jobs could that provide?’ Then I realize that their decisions are based on the education they grew up with rather than the kind of education Dr. Razzaz described or that His Majesty King Abdullah set as a goal in his 7th Discussion Paper. These changes will take time to complete, but at least every step toward that leaves Jordanians much better off.

The identification is great. Now let's see the implementation!

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