For Amer Al Sabaileh, the protests are not only about taxes but touch the whole state, monarchy included. Extremist infiltrations from Iraq and Syria are a possibility and could fuel street violence. To overcome the crisis, focus must be on fighting corruption and promoting development and innovation.
Amman (AsiaNews) – The wave of protests, so far peaceful, that broke out recently in the Hashemite kingdom "are not just about fiscal policy". They have "economic and political" relevance since they touch upon the state’s modus of governance and the monarchy itself, this according to Jordanian professor and analyst Amer Al Sabaileh.
The Amman-born scholar, a graduate in Modern Languages and Literature with a master obtained in Italy, now lectures at the University of Jordan, in the Department of European Languages.
He spoke to AsiaNews about the recent demonstrations in Amman and other cities in the country, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Mulki.
Like any form of protest, "this too is marked by signs of social tensions and is likely to get worse. We border Iraq and Syria, countries embroiled in terrorism and crime. Domestic weakness can transform these protests" into something extremist. Hence, “it is necessary to watch and pay attention."
The spark that triggered protests was the tax reform bill proposed by the government, backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The plan was to curb inflation and unemployment but according to its critics, trade unions and civil society groups, it would have impoverished the middle and lower-middle classes.
The new Prime Minister, Omar al-Razzaz, has already indicated his intention of scrapping the bill, following a warning from King Abdullah.
At present, he is consulting with various stakeholders, including business groups and trade unions. Meanwhile, the protest movement goes on unabated with hundreds of people in the streets of the capital demanding a change in the country's economic and social policies.
For the first time in the country’s recent history, even the monarchy seems to be in trouble because of the exasperation of an increasingly impoverished population and the possible growth of Islamic extremism.
The protests look like the tip of an iceberg in a country that has limited natural resources (like oil) compared to others in the region and has become the home of up to a million war refugees, mostly from Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Amer Al Sabaileh notes that the new prime minister announced the withdrawal of the tax law and changes to the 16 per cent sales tax on goods and services, which “has worsened the economic conditions of Jordanians".
This said, there seem to be some "positive signals" that could have a beneficial impact; however, "I do not think the protests are over. Rather we are entering a new phase. It is not about a specific law but an accumulation of many errors over time, over many years."
For him, "a state within the state that has been forming over time is the true target of the protest."
Even the king bears some responsibility in the way the country is run domestically and its relations with other countries in the region (Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia), as well as the United States, its historic ally.
"We face a wider problem,” he said. The debt to GDP ratio is 90 per cent showing no signs of stopping. And corruption has ruled Jordan's politics in recent decades.
"People are profoundly weary about the status quo. They want justice, fairness and trials for those who contributed to the country’s decline. Prominent people in political and government circles have undermined the country’s credibility."
The new government "must present a clear road map for its medium- and long-term strategic objectives,” showing that it has the “means and the plans to promote economic development.” (DS)