Eng. Saleem Al-Batayneh
Historically, sound economic management has been a catalyst for societal progress, prosperity, and growth. The judicious management of a nation’s resources not only bolsters its financial standing but also provides the necessary means to invest in crucial sectors such as education, healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, and scientific research. Conversely, ill-advised economic stewardship often leads to decline, collapse, the proliferation of poverty, and the rampant spread of corruption.
Jordanians find themselves confronted daily, even hourly, by deceptive maneuvers orchestrated by banks and financial and technical companies. These entities unscrupulously exploit the ignorance of thousands of citizens, banking on the belief that customers will unquestioningly accept whatever they are told by customer service representatives.
In practical terms, Jordan appears to be under the oligarchic dominion of banks and corporations, governed by powerful interest groups that wield considerable control and exercise authority according to their whims. These influential groups often have a significant presence in the corridors of power, with some of their members holding ministerial positions while others occupy leadership roles.
A recent report published on the Global SWF platform sheds light on a disconcerting reality: the World Bank has uncovered evidence suggesting that companies and banks in many Middle Eastern countries enjoy political connections, influence, protection, privileges, and favouritism. These entities have become pivotal players in the political landscape, significantly impacting political and economic decision-making.
For instance, it is perplexing that certain banks in Jordan record profits from loans that either match or exceed the original capital within a remarkably short span. These banks prioritize swift profits without regard for stimulating development, promoting projects to rejuvenate the economy, or generating employment opportunities. Social responsibility appears to be of little concern to them.
Consider, too, the actions of some telecommunications companies that blatantly disregard the terms of contracts, coercing citizens into signing two-year agreements. These companies exploit the populace’s need for high-speed internet and affordable monthly subscriptions. They extend subscription terms without obtaining consent, infringing on the rights of consumers. The intentional omission of judicial authority in such contracts tilts the balance in favour of the service or loan provider, underscoring the strength they wield.
The electricity bills in Jordan present another illustrative case. When the electric current’s intensity drops to 170 volts, the meter reading inexplicably doubles for every 3 kilowatts consumed. Essentially, the meter adds an extra kilowatt to the consumer’s usage, recording 3 kW as 4 kW. This means that the electrical device compensates for voltage fluctuations at the expense of increased amperage consumption.
Understanding the unique position of certain banks and financial companies in Jordan is essential. Their dominance stems from possessing unparalleled leverage, which makes regulating them a formidable challenge. These institutions have etched their names into Jordan’s political landscape.
The absence of genuine political reforms has paved the way for capitalism and nepotism to thrive. An elite few have amassed a substantial share of the nation’s wealth, reaping the privileges bestowed upon them. These elites engage in mutual exchanges of gains, undermining economic competition, which now seems little more than a catchphrase used in conferences and meetings.
Regrettably, irresponsible and irrational sequences persist. Jordan’s reality has surpassed the bounds of imagination. The government appears unwilling to heed the people’s cries or acknowledge their suffering. They are moving towards electronic payment without a structured plan, diminishing the value of physical currency. Companies monopolizing these services are left without competition and receive support from various state institutions.
The statistics mirror a grim reality in Jordan: a widening circle of poverty, a diminishing per capita share of the gross national income, and a closed economy that benefits a select few. This growing social and economic disparity has stifled youth entrepreneurship, fostering the rampant spread of corruption.
Questions arise: Why do some in Jordan enjoy affluence without significant effort, while the majority grapple with hardships? Why do certain individuals monopolize power in corporations, institutions, and banks, while others are denied access? In recent years, the state has permitted a select few to control and monopolize pivotal sectors, such as banking, financial institutions, insurance, mining, energy generation, communications, and more.
The equation has become painfully clear: as banks and corporations amass profits, Jordan’s national economic production contracts, and public debt balloons. It is time for a concerted effort to address these disparities and restore balance to Jordan’s economic landscape. There should be a reevaluation of the economic power structures that have contributed to these imbalances.
Al-Batayneh was a former member of the Jordanian Parliament.