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A dose of good governance

Aug 19,2018 - Last updated at Aug 19,2018

During the past few weeks, much was written about Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, especially his habit of turning up unexpectedly at places such as Al Bashir Hospital or the Abdali bus terminus, which prime ministers usually disregard completely, assuming they are aware that these places exist at all.

Jordan’s punditocracy are divided on this behaviour. Some compare it to the Caliph Omar, patrolling Medina incognito at night, searching for people in need of his help, while others see it as insincere populism.

Both groups have a point: The public is in dire need of an assurance that someone, somewhere, cares about making their lives better; then again, Al Bashir Hospital, for instance, received many visitations in the past, and yet the lift that is supposed to carry patients to the surgery floor remained out of service. 

At the same time, both groups miss the point. Razzaz is intelligent enough to realise what everyone in Jordan already knows, that what Jordan needs most is for someone to confront and eliminate corruption, a task in which no one believes he will achieve. 

If he wanted quick popularity, the public would dearly love to see him summarily lock up all those accused in the social media of grand larceny and throw away the key. He would become a folk hero instantaneously but only briefly because, history shows, people who have tried this approach ended up not solving any problems and creating the bigger problem of a rule of terror. 

So how can the PM or anyone else deal with corruption? The obvious solution would be through the law, but the legal system of Jordan has yet to succeed in making a dent in corruption. So should we give up?

Actually, the real impact of Razzaz may be in measures which have received relatively little prominence in the media, such as the new rule that makes appointment to high office subject to a process. It seems that now several candidates need to be named by the Civil Service Bureau, then they compete and the one with the highest score gets the job. 

Will this apply to all high office appointments? Of course not. Will it make a difference? Hopefully yes.

We are at a point where big bold steps will only result in bigger reactions that nullify them. The best thing that can be done is small steps that may pass unnoticed. This step may be the thin end of the wedge, introducing good governance in small steps that remain imperceptible until they take root.  

The alternative would be ominous. Jordanians commonly say: “Things just cannot get worse.” What they mean to say is that “if things continue the way they are, the result would be catastrophic”. That may be too painful to contemplate but, unfortunately, we need not look far to see that catastrophes happen.

This is why one of the rare points of consensus in Jordan today is that everyone wishes Razzaz success.


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