The most commonly asked questions, among Jordanians, recently are probably “how long until this crisis is over? When will we make it out of it? Is there any way to alleviate the pressures of the phase after everything we’ve been through?
Of course, these questions are valid.
Everybody is entitled to wonder what future lies beyond this difficult stage, after all this time, and everything Jordanians have been through. Two International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes in, and we still haven’t found a way through. We even managed to make it worse for people.
However, figuring out the answers to these questions requires thorough understanding of the government’s policies and decisions. We need to understand the philosophy and reasoning behind them.
Sadly enough, we don’t. And it is not simply because they are too complicated, but rather because they seem to be non-existent, as far as philosophies go.
Considering the current course of action, it is vital that we pause and think. What are the government’s plans for the next phase and how will they reflect on people’s lives? Will it change things for the better or worse?
In the meantime, the government seems hell-bent on passing an amended Tax Law, which would increase tax burdens for fixed-income segments. The same people who paid the highest price for the governments’ inconsiderate policies over these last few years.
That said, it would be wise think twice before taking any further steps down that road. The tax amendment is no less sensitive an issue than the de-subsidisation of bread. In fact, it may even be more dangerous.
Furthermore, the government’s projects that revenues from the new tax law should meet the requirements of the IMF, theoretically speaking. But practically, the damage done by any such decision is going to be far worse than not meeting their requirements.
The possible “victims” of the bill will most probably be the marginalised, disenfranchised and fixed-income people, who cannot take any more excisions on their already drained out salaries!
The repercussions of such a decision will resound far deeper, especially at this point. It will further alienate people, weaken assimilation and the sense of belonging. Especially if this segment slips further into poverty.
Due to the complexity of the implications, the decision to make the bill or break it is no longer economic or financial. It is now a political decision. It only shows that the government does not care about the citizens. It is dismissive of the people’s affairs and their circumstances. Either that or its just simply detached from the reality of the people and their economic situation.
Meanwhile, Jordan’s relationship with the IMF has never been so tense.
The Fund suddenly developed a soft spot for the impoverished and the less fortunate! Despite everything the government has done to meet its requirements, the IMF still refused to ratify the second review of the programme, though they say they care.
Notably, never has the IMF been more abrupt in its dealing with Jordan.
This takes us back to the questions raised by Jordanians; How long is this going to last?
It is not easy to come up with an actual answer to this question. Especially under the weight of a rapidly destabilising region and the madness sweeping through.
On the one hand, it is organically linked to the government’s performance. It is crucial to have an economic policy aligned to the enacted fiscal and financial policies.
The government may even have to revisit some of its decisions.
People cannot withstand this for much longer. Thus, it would be of great benefit to reconsider the tax hikes for all 160 commodities, out of consideration at least, for the people’s sake, given the current conditions.
Likewise, the government may need to put off the tax hikes on individual incomes, until the fruits of economic growth and development are sawn and tangible.
It would also help to consider a holistic tax revamp, to establish an equitable taxation philosophy on the basis of fair redistribution of wealth and development.
What the government is doing today, honestly, is not enough to draw hopes for a brighter future, nor light in the end of the tunnel.
To get through the crisis, we need a fundamentally different economic approach towards development. One that is unlike anything the government has at hand. It would also prove helpful to minimise expenses; it is just as important as maximising revenues.
So, how long will it take? I doubt anyone knows the answer to this question. At best, the answer is undisclosed.
As long as the government is haphazardly going about its business, without a clear philosophy or plan to go on, it would be futile to even try to raise the question. Let alone answer it.
This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.