A system upgrade in Jordan: Is it still possible?

October 23, 2013

by Mothanna Gharaibeh

Not only did the technological revolution introduce products that make our lives easier, but it has also come with its share of jargon, coined phrases, and terminologies useful in discussing politics. In the case of some regimes that have survived the Arab Spring with shy and shallow reform measures such as Jordan, we might need to “troubleshoot” some major issues that plague our system using a technical analogy.

In the telecom industry each manufacturer or supplier of a system provides its product with a warranty period where product integrity is guaranteed without additional cost. After the warranty period expires, the maintenance and support period arrives: the supplier is obliged to maintain, provide technical support, and fix any problem or fault, but at a price. During the support period, software updates are continuously provided to solve operational disruptions caused by bugs in the software. After the support period ends, system owners need to upgrade the software to be able to maintain the system.

Not only do companies guarantee extended support to a system upgraded with the latest software release, but customers also benefit from being introduced to new functionalities, capabilities, speed, and efficiency

Not only do companies guarantee extended support to a system upgraded with the latest software release, but customers also benefit from being introduced to new functionalities, capabilities, speed, and efficiency. This software upgrade, if well planned, can be performed smoothly with minimum operational disturbance. But if the upgrade doesn’t take place at the right time, the system will start exhibiting operational outages and the consumer might need to completely swap the hardware to be able to maintain system functionality.

The same concept applies to politics, where in certain cases the hardware is the state resources (people, organizations, natural resources, funds, etc) and software is the set of commands (constitution, laws, and processes) that control and govern the relation between the resources in the state to guarantee full functionality and productivity of the state.

it is obvious that to the state men and women are not constitutionally equal in rights and duties as citizens

In the past 3 years, demands for reform have heightened to unprecedented levels. The state has been resistant to meet these demands by introducing sweeping reform measures. Instead, whenever protests increase in intensity or potential threats surface due to the regional situation, the state would introduce some minor updates believing that they would fix some of the problems that the activists brought to the public’s attention. Little do they realize that temporary fixes may delay the problems for a while, but can in no way solve them permanently. A clear example is the Royal Committee for Constitutional Changes, which was molded from a group of very old officials, without a single woman among them. In this particular case, for example, it is obvious that to the state men and women are not constitutionally equal in rights and duties as citizens— and this committee was supposed to put forth a visionary constitution that would drive Jordan forward! Another example is the newly suggested tax law, which will succeed in creating liquidity through citizens to overcome the budget deficiency in the short term, but will demotivate the economy in the long term. This law would force citizens who already pay taxes to increase their payments, instead of tackling the high tax evasion, which is estimated at an annual 800 million USD. While Jordanian officials speak of Jordan as a free economy state, the reality is a mix of privatization, monopoly, and corruption.

Simple “updates” and “bug fixes” will not be sufficient. What is needed in this case is a “software upgrade” in the form of a new vision agreed upon through a social contract that governs the relation between the different components of the state

In Jordan, we need to transform the current rentier state status that cannot be maintained anymore into a fully-functioning productive state: One characterized by increased productivity of its human resources, creation of new revenue streams, transparency and accountability, upholding rule of law, and a fair distribution of wealth and resources. Simple “updates” and “bug fixes” will not be sufficient. What is needed in this case is a “software upgrade” in the form of a new vision agreed upon through a social contract that governs the relation between the different components of the state.

This vision should include innovative solutions that address the economic crisis outside the frame of the traditional, austere plans agreed on with the IMF; plans that did not attack the budget sacred cows such as military expenditure, which currently gobbles around 30% of the state’s budget. The plan should also bring back into consideration the progressive elections law agreed on in the national dialogue committee, the results of which the king guaranteed to be considered, but which the consecutive government totally ignored.

We either choose to execute a much needed upgrade, or live with the consequences. If we reach a complete failed state scenario,  we might be forced to change part of the hardware and go through outages and system crashes. It is up to us to choose between an upgrade with a clear vision, and plan towards a better functioning Jordan, or a system failure that occurs due to ignorance, absence of planning, and a will to change.

*Photo from Shutterstock