Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Prime Ministers Galore"

Two frequently asked questions about Jordan keep on popping (or pooping) up on almost any occasion, ranging from the funeral of Nelson Mandela to the legalization of  marijuana in Uruguay.  The first is "why Jordan hasn’t been able to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth?" This question is immediately followed by "has this failure always been the case, or is it a recent phenomenon?"  The frequency of these questions intensifies with time, and so does the urge to find answers.  This very urge led me to read countless economic and political economic studies on why genuine growth over the past decades has remained elusive.
In looking for reasons, there seemed to be an emphasis on the weakness of the institutional framework for policy making and strategy planning in Jordan.  There also seems to be a consensus on the symptom, or maybe the root cause, of such weakness, which are the continuous dizzying changes in governments in Jordan. The constant “government hopping” has been a huge enigma for me.  Why would anyone “in his right mind” (the ultimate absolute decision maker namely the king) persistently disrupt an already vulnerable socio-economic  status quo? Why?  Moreover, I noticed that we have tended to blame the past decade (in an indirect allusion to King Abdulla’s reign) for such instability.  Having all of this in mind, I decided to take a quick look at government formations in Jordan since it was a British Protectorate (Emirate of Transjordan 1921) until today.  Here is what I found:
-          The first prime minister Transjordan knew was Rashid Talee’ (April-August 1921)

-          Since 1921 Jordan has had 73 changes of prime ministers. An average 
of one prime minister per 1.3 years.

-          Since 1946 Jordan has had 61 changes of prime ministers. An average of one prime minister per 1.1 years

-          Three prime ministers had their (or one of their) premierships for less than a month.  5 days (Hazza Majali in 1955), 8 days (Hussein Khalidi in 1957), and 9 days (Muhammad Daoud in 1970).

-          61 out of the 73 were prime ministers for less than two years.

-          41 out of the 73 were prime ministers for less than a year

-          10 out of the 73 were prime ministers for less than three months.

-          The longest sitting prime minister was Tawfiq Abu Al-Huda 1938-1944

-          The longest 3 sitting prime ministers were before 1946

-          Zeid Refai was twice a prime minister (I had completely forgotten about this) the first time 1973-1976 and the second time 1985-1989. Both periods were tumultuous ones.

-          From 1999 until today Jordan has had 10 prime ministers.  An average of 1 prime minister per 1.4 years. A better ratio than the previous decades!!!!

-          Since 1948 Israel has had 12 prime ministers over 33 terms.
In conclusion,  attributing  our inability to achieve sustainable growth to the instability of our policy making framework seems to hold some truth to it.  As we say in Arabic, if the reason is known, then the puzzlement is gone; or part of it at least.