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Facing the economic woes

May 08,2018 - Last updated at May 08,2018

Economically and politically, the Jordanian people act as if they were aboard a runaway train. The track spitting fire and smoke, and where it would stop is something that no one seems to know. 

I walk downtown Amman and a group of merchants with beedy eyes ask me about my expectations. People in Maan, Zarqa and Irbid governorates wonder when things will start looking better. I try my best to say that nothing goes down stays down and nothing that goes up stays up forever. Their dismal response reveals how desperate they are. “But Dr Jawad, it has been going down for a long time. Will it be better soon, this year, next year or even after that?”

I tell them that there are certain positive signs, which reassure me that we are far away from an economic crash. We have a comfortable level of gold and foreign exchange reserves, some new investments are coming, security and safety are there safeguarding our normalcy and we are not in default in the repayment of our public debts.

They are quick to point back that we are repaying our public debt because we are overcharging people in higher taxes, higher fees and more new fees, and in return the efficiency of the public sector in servicing the people is low. How long can this state of affairs be sustained? 

The number of families living in or near poverty is increasing, and there are lots of indicators which say that family budgets fail way short of life’s basic needs.

We all want cars, homes, mobile phones, healthcare, better nutrition, vacations abroad and best education for our children. These are issues which soon will be put to test. If our budgets continue as they are with us making hard and painful choices, we will be raising bankruptcies and untold social ills.

Government will soon have to cope with issues they have been trying to avoid. Overemployment and inefficient services and mounting debts have to impose painful decisions. The weakening of family budgets will impact government revenues to bone-deep levels.

This culmination of mounting liabilities is a scary possibility. Things are not irreversible, however. We can begin a well-concerted campaign to serve and save the economy. 

To believe that a new tax law will help us resolve our prospective economic difficulties is a sheer wishful thinking. We need a more serious look into our problems and we should stare them right in the face. 

Whatever measures are taken right now are just pain soothers, or pacifiers. We need a new spirit, new approach and new instruments. Fiscal and monetary adjustment has exhausted its usefulness. We need to focus on development and growth.

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