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Gov’t report card: A mix of good and bad

Feb 06,2018 - Last updated at Feb 06,2018

Prime Minister Hani Mulki has just submitted to His Majesty King Abdullah the "report card" on his government's achievements and challenges for 2017. 

The submission of "report cards" in a periodic manner is certainly a great idea in principle that countries worldwide may wish to emulate as an effective measure to assess both progresses attained or regression sustained during a certain period of time, usually on an annual basis.

Yet, meaningful progress reports are usually prepared by a neutral body to avoid "self-grading". The government itself cannot pass judgement on its own successes or failures. There is a need for a third party agency to do that in order to make sure that the assessments are fair and square and are based on objective criteria. Any such periodic reports must also be based on data and benchmarks in order to make any "grading" of governmental activities more accurate. 

This year’s report card of the government is, nevertheless, the first of its kind. Perfecting all future progress reports would have to be incremental. In any case, the current report of the government needs to be examined and "graded" by a committee of experts who are neither ministers nor prime ministers.

Given the aggravated economic hardships that have faced the country over the past year and the exacerbation of tensions all around the country, the prospects for achieving a high grade is going to be taxing and difficult, if not impossible, to attain. 

Given the fact that much of governmental activities are hard to measure in absolute way, the most that can be expected is relative appraisals of what the government has managed to accomplish in the past year.

With all fairness though, the Mulki government did succeed in surviving turbulent times and achieved progress on several fronts, including strengthening local governments, perfecting democracy and improving the economic scene despite all of the shortcomings imposed by external forces and the cumulative hardships, both financial and political. 

To be sure, the government's report for 2017 covered a variety of issues ranging from economic reform, to human resources development, employment, anti-corruption measures, judicial reform and creation of social safety net for the most disadvantaged people.

On the positive side, the government said in the report that it has decreased the budget deficit in 2017 to 15 per cent, increased domestic revenues by 7.7 per cent, achieved a real GDP growth of 2 per cent during the first three quarters of 2017, saw a 12.5 per cent growth in tourism income, and a 19.1 per cent growth in direct foreign investment. 

On the negative side, there has been an increase in public debt by 4.4 per cent, and a 9.7 per cent increase in trade deficit during the first 11 months of 2017.

 

All in all, the report turned out to be a mixed bag of good and bad news but on balance, it would be fair to say that the government succeeded against great odds to face unusually hard conditions and emerged triumphant.

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