Saturday, December 31, 2005

Celebrating the New Year

Many people will celebrate at home this year in Jordan. Contrary to the perception that this is due the terror attacks last month, new years celebrations are largely held at home every year. Family and friends gather in a warm room, laughing, playing with the kids, eating and drinking. Part of the activity is watching other people have real fun on TV, especially the parties in Damascus and Beirut. Many doze off before midnight strikes, and few last much longer than 1 A.M. In general, the arrival of the New Year is an anticlimatic event.

There are many reasons why people don't go for the public celebrations that are seen in other places. In the first place, there are no public celebrations. The closest things are parties thrown in hotels and restaurants. These tend to be expensive and elitist. It is difficult to take children, as there are no play areas or activities for them. The kids tend to doze off at the table, after failing in pressuring their parents to go home.

It would be fun to have a public area where people gather, sing and celebrate the new year with a sense of community. Such a celebration would have been a proper response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Instead, there are fewer parties this year, as the hotels figure that they can't rip people off as badly as they do every year. Our government and local councils don't think it is their job. So, as in every year we will roast chestnuts, have a couple of glasses of wine and doze off.

Wishing all a happy and prosperous 2006.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Movement in the senate

Al Arab al Yawm is doing a much better job than the rest of the dailies in keeping up with the budget- income tax controversy. In today's issue, there is an article pointing to movement in the senate on resolving the issue of the income tax law that was rejected by the house. The finance and legal committees in the senate will decide today whether to either recommend rejection of the law or to move to vote on it in the senate.

In a related op-ed piece, Fahed Khitan points out that key members of the senate are now against the income tax law, pointing specifically to ex-prime ministers Ali Abu Ragheb and Abdulkarim Kabariti. Issues that are to be resolved include whether to modify the law to make it more fair or to reject it outright. It seems that Marouf Bakhit is not pushing the issue very hard, and doesn't have a problem with either option. There does seem to be an issue with what to do with the other three laws that were rejected by the house.

A third article discusses the economic prospects for Jordan in 2006. The indicators are for rising fuel prices as well as inflation, as well as for progress in various fields of economic activity, and continued stability of the dinar. There is also a lot of concern with the increase in the sales tax, which will rise from 4% to 16% on many staples, including food and medicine. This rise is a result of an administrative decision by the previous government, and thus not subject to approval by the parliament.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The house finance committee

Yesterday, trouble occurred when the house finance committee voted for their chair. As a result, seven of the eleven members resigned. Now, I don't completely understand how four members outvoted the other seven. But I am interested in the story behind the story.

The seven members were unhappy that Abdallah Akaileh, an independent Islamist, was elected as chair, beating out Hashim Dabbas, who was chair last year. What is the big deal?

I wrote earlier that the parliament has a chance to reverse the controversial income tax law if it revises the budget according to the old law. The most serious discussions on this issue will be in the finance committee. So, the fate of the controversial law will largely be in this committee. A couple of days ago Hashim Dabbas himself complained that the finance committee gives unbinding recommendations that are mostly ignored by the government. So why is he upset that he is not chair? Because the committee is more important than he wants to admit.

In essence, the committee can either let things go the government's way, which would mean that the parliament will have to backtrack on it's rejection of the temporary laws passed by Adnan Badran's government, or it could follow through with it's rejection of the laws, which are flawed both in form and in substance.

Dabbas is a member of the National Action Front headed by Abdulhadi Majjali, the speaker of the house. Suleiman Abu Ghaith gave the front's speech in the confidence discussions. In it, he basically said that front is in full support of the government's efforts to raise revenue and to ensuring "financial stability". So, basically Dabbas wants the job so that he can do the government's bidding, and to make sure the budget passes the way the government wants it.

What do the Islamists want? The IAF speech was given by Mohammad Aqel. As might be expected, they were more interested in applying Sharia than in discussing any specifics which people might hold them to. So he gave populist grievances equal footing with the need to remove barriers to investments (the justification the government gives for the new tax law). The IAF made sure that one of their independent allies won the spot rather than an official IAF member. So, they can push for a populist revision of the government's economic policies, and at the same time not anger the government by having one of their own do the job.

Khalil Atieh also ran for the chairmanship of the committee despite the fact that he didn't mention the economy at all in his speech. The fact that he ran gave Akaileh the opportunity to take the chairmanship, and the fact that he resigned the committee is very funny. He ran to make Dabbas lose, and then resigned because Akaileh won.

The parliament is in a bind. They don't want to anger the government, and at the same time they don't want the finance committee to embarrass them with recommendations that they might have to reject, which would make them look bad in front of their constituents. Thus, committee members from the major factions in the parliament are upset and have resigned. Akaileh might force the issue in a way that the MP's don't want to go, and embarrass them into doing the right thing.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A new survey

Al Ghad has the results of a new public opinion survey conducted by the Jordan Center for Social Studies, which is headed by Dr. Musa Shtaiwi. Last September, the center issued an opinion poll which was somewhat controversial, especially since it showed that most Jordanians support the one vote law. The new survey confirms this result. The questions asked this time were different, but the results are also interesting.

Over 70% of the respondents feel that the country is headed in the right direction. This is up 20% since the last poll. My feeling is that this is because Marouf Bakhit has conveyed as sense of calm which Badran was unable to do. People blamed Badran for the rise in fuel prices, and felt that his government was unstable after an ugly clash with the parliament.

One interesting question was about the biggest challenge facing the country. The results show that 30% felt that it was rising costs of living, 27% was unemployment, 18% was poverty, 6% was poor economic condition, and 4% was corruption. The earlier survey put corruption as the top problem at 26%. Thus, the current survey shows that 81% of people feel that economic problems are the most significant issues facing the country. I am not sure how to explain the discrepancy between the September survey and this one in terms of the importance of corruption. Has corruption been eliminated in the last three months?

As for political trends, the survey shows that 44% of people would vote for centrist parties if elections are held now, and 23% would vote for Islamists, less than 6% would vote for Arab nationalists. In the previous survey, 47% said that they would vote for Islamists. While it is tempting to conclude that the drop in the support of the Islamists might be a backlash after last month's terror attacks, I think that the earlier result was plain wrong. In the 2003 elections, IAF candidates took 16% of the votes in the districts they contested (that is, the districts they though they could win). A different survey by the Center for Strategic Studies in the University of Jordan conducted last September shows that 4% for the respondents felt that the IAF represented their aspirations, down from 6.6% in 2004 and 14.7% in 2003. While the results of the current survey seem closer to reality, they might be too high, especially since the CSS survey shows much lower Islamist support.

Other interesting results show that most people support the quotas set aside for women, Christians, Chechens and Sercassians and Bedouins (over 70% support for each category).

I found the survey interesting, but I am troubled by the level of variation seen in the results between the survey conducted last September and this one. I believe that some of the results might be taken with a grain of salt. However, it shows that Jordanians are more interested in economic and security issues than in political ones. The fact that existing political parties haven't addressed economic alternatives in a convincing matter is probably one reason why people view them so poorly. Jordanians are smart and fair. They deserve to be approached with that in mind.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Our friend Ahmad Chalabi (Abu 0.36%)

While it seems that the Iraqi elections were largely rigged, it is interesting to know how our friend Ahmad Chalabi did anyway.

Chalabi has an interesting history with Jordan. In 1977 he founded the Petra Bank in Amman, which became one of the leading banks in the country. With the economic boom of the early 1980's, and with the help of highly placed friends, things went well.

This began to change as Jordan's economy grew sour in the late 80's. When Petra bank was required to deposit a portion of its dollar assets in the Central Bank of Jordan, things began to fall apart. 1989, Chalabi fled the country in the trunk of a car (which was not searched at the frontier), and in 1992 he was convicted of embezzling 200 million dollars, as well as other counts of fraud and currency exchange crimes. Details are in the Guardian here. He was sentenced in absentia for 22 years.

Chalabi has denied wrongdoing, and has consistently asserted that the collapse of the bank and the charges against him were politically motivated, as a result of pressure from Saddam Hussein. There are a number of lines of circumstantial evidence which make his assertions questionable:

  1. In the late 80's, Saddam was too busy worrying about the war with Iran to worry about Chalabi.
  2. The collapse of the Petra bank was an embarrassment to the Jordanian regime, given the close ties between Chalabi and the royal family. Why would somebody embarrass themselves that way?
  3. A Chalabi bank in Switzerland also collapsed in 1990, along with a number of affiliated institutions outside of Jordan. Were these due to Saddam conspiracies as well?
  4. Subsequent dealings between the CIA and Chalabi revealed financial "improprieties".

After fleeing Jordan, Chalabi remade himself as an opposition figure bent on removing Saddam Hussein from power. He became a favorite of the Neocons who relied on him to tell them what they wanted to hear. Many believe that is was misinformation given by Chalabi which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

After becoming a key figure in the new regime in Iraq, Chalabi tried to extort Jordan into exonerating him from the crimes that he was convicted of. He filed suit in 2004 in the US against the government of Jordan for ruining his good name. The fact that he waited 12 years to do this suggests that the suit is politically motivated, and designed to assure Iraqis that he is not a crook. He refused a royal pardon, insisting that the charges be abrogated. This didn't happen. His smug confidence in his position in the new Iraq gave him the petulance to make such demands. So, how does he stand now?

In the elections last spring, Chalabi was assured a position by running on the Hakim-Jaafari slate endorsed by Sistani. He became the deputy prime minister of Iraq. However, it looks like his overconfidence has finally done him in. He ran on his own slate this time, and it looks like he won't make it up to the 0.5% mark. One of his slogans bragged that he "liberated Iraq". So, he expected the Iraqi people to be thankful for his role in this mess, and his self confession that he is a traitor. While other candidates are claiming vote fraud, he is claiming that there was no fraud, probably to ingratiate himself with Jaafari and Hakim. In any case, I doubt that he will find much of a standing no matter what he does.

So, I know that it would be immature and childish to rub it in, but here it goes:

Na na nya nya! Pthththth!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cop out?

Yesterday I suggested that the house might modify the budget that was submitted by the government. The purpose would be to force the hand of the government and the senate on the regressive tax code which was passed unconstitutionally, rejected by the house, and still in force because the senate refuses to take action on it.

Today, Dr. Hashim Dabbas, the chief financial whiz in the house and member of the finance committee conceded that: 1- The government inflated the expenditures by inflating the projected cost of oil; 2- The income tax law hurts limited income people to the benefit of the rich and 3- passing the income tax law was an abuse of legal procedures.

However, he claimed that it was not in the power of the committee or the house to modify the budget, and their role is simply to "make recommendations", which the government routinely ignore.

Article 112 paragraph (iv) of the Jordanian constitution states the following:

The National Assembly, when debating the General Budget draft law or the provisional laws relating thereto, may reduce the expenditures under the various chapters in accordance with what it considers to be in the public interest, but it shall not increase such expenditures either by amendment or by the submission of a separate proposal. However, the Assembly may after the close of the debate propose laws for the creation of new expenditures.

So, it is clear that while the house has no right to change existing tax laws at this stage (they already rejected the income tax law), they can modify the expenditures to make them fit projected revenues based on the old tax code.

The purpose would be to allow for the possibility that the tax law be rejected. Clearly, if the budget is passed in the present form, then it would be impossible to do anything but let the new tax law pass. It would affirm that what was done was correct retroactively. To pretend that the house can't change anything is a cop out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A chance for redemption

The parliament will soon start discussing the 2006 budget, as the minister of finance will make his presentation today.

The 2006 budget is based on the revenues projected according to the new tax code. Thus, while the code itself is in dormancy in the senate, the deputies can push the issue by revising the budget according to the old tax code. This would force the senate and the government to making a decision and moving on this subject.

Based on what happened in the confidence discussions, I wouldn't be too hopeful.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

So, how did they do?

In my previous post, I put four points on which I would judge the discussion of confidence for Marouf Bakhit and his cabinet. In essence, I think that the credibility of the democratic process is on the line. The Bakhit government inherited an opaque national agenda which it is pushing forth without making public (and I might add it was written without the participation of elected representatives), and is pushing laws which were passed undemocratically and, one might say, unconstitutionally. So, in light of this flagrant attack on the only democratically elected body in the government and its legislative role, one might ask whether the parliament is ready to live up to it's responsibilities, or will it cave to threats of dissolution?

Well, one way to guess it to read Bakhit's response. Essentially, he blew them off, saying that he would "study" all of the comments given by the deputies. And the deputies' response? They gave him 86 confidence votes, 20 no confidence and one abstention.

So, despite all of the hot air, the deputies actually came away empty handed. The temporary legislation which they rejected will stay in force as the senate sleeps on it, despite being touched upon by Abdulkarim Dughmi. The NA will stay an enigma, with one deputy, Odeh Gawwas, complaining that even the deputies didn't have access to the NA. Some deputies even called for the swift implementation of the NA, despite clearly not having read it.

Separation between the security role and the political role of the security services was not discussed, and despite some mention of the issue of privatization, Bakhit will ignore these faint calls.

So, what has happened is that the government has conceded the political aspect of the NA to the parliament, saying that it is the house's role to pass this legislation, but didn't concede the arguably more important economic issues. So, while the IAF deputies talk about implementing sharia, and the rest of the deputies fixated on more mundane aspects of service and job distribution, the fat cats walked away with a regressive tax law that will punish the middle class and reward the rich. Moreover, liquidating public property has become much easier, also in favor of the rich.

So, how did they do? They were limp. Unfortunately for the government, it is not the deputies' opinion that matters. I hope that the government doesn't push the people too far, but it looks like things are heading that way.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What I hope to hear the deputies say

Tomorrow the parliament will start discussing the confidence vote for Marouf Bakhit's cabinet. Typically, these speeches are used for grandstanding, and to ask for local services for constituencies of the individual MP's. In essence, what I would hope to hear (or read) includes a detailed analysis of what is expected of the government, based on its program and members.

Now, it seems that everybody is in awe of Bakhit, and what is coming out is remarkably uncritical. I guess that a mixture between the blandness of the cabinet makeup, fatigue and fear are leading towards a large victory in the vote.

Nevertheless, I believe that a more critical review of what is in the program is in order. So, in the hope that some MP's might read my blog (Ha Ha), I would like to give them hints as to what Khalaf might want to hear.

1- The government should pressure the senate to expedite the discussion of the laws rejected by the house. These laws will remain in force until the senate takes a decision on them one way or another. The passage of these laws was dubious to begin with. This can be rectified by going through the proper constitutional channels. Keeping these laws on the books as the senate takes it's sweet time to discuss them is as flagrant a violation of the spirit of the constitution as their original passage. This should be a litmus test to the seriousness with which the government will treat the house.
2- The government should release the NA for general discussion. This is also true for the report of the Regions' Committee. Hiding behind the NA should at least mean that you don't hide the report.
3- In view of the expressed interest in political development, a clear statement is required saying that it is not the role of the security services to interfere with the political development in the country. This has been hinted at before, and it is time that this should be discussed frankly and openly. Saying that the laws will be reviewed simply does not go to the core of the issue.
4- The issue of privatization and where the money is spent should be open to a frank and open discussion. Past experiences are not encouraging.

I will keep my eye open for any of these points. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Update 1. Marouf Bakhit has promised to open discussions on the controversial aspects of the NA. The agenda isn't available to the general public, and so we will be told what is controversial and what is not. Takes the guesswork out of things, I suppose.

Update 2. In his presentation to the parliament, Bakhit maintained that his government will continue with tax reform that will increase self sufficiency (they will collect more money) and encourage investment (they won't take money from the people who have it), and increase the tax base. Guess who pays (wink, wink), suckers?

Update 3. The government is planning on setting up Hyde Park in Amman. It turns out that 24 laws need to be reviewed and changed to make it work. I thought we already had freedom of expression. Darn.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Stealth agenda

Towards the end of work of the National Agenda committee, the committee coordinator and the deputy prime minister at the time Marwan Muasher promised the NA would be posted on the web and people would be given a chance to give their input. Remember that the NA is a working plan for "reform". What has happened since then can not be classified as anything near reform.

In the king's designation letter to Marouf Bakhit, he stated that the NA "is a general framework for our program and goals. The NA will be in your hands and in the hands of the government for discussion and use, as a guide and framework for the path of reform, modernization and future development." Thus, its status dropped from a binding program to a guide and a framework.

To me, this is fine. However, what has happened in the last few weeks is very disturbing. In the final hours of the Badran administration, the government passed four laws and put them in effect, ignoring the constitutional limits on the ability to legislate in the absence of parliament. Moreover, the government passed a budget with numbers based on the implementation of the new legislation. Thus, the reformist Muasher used the agenda for his and his cronies own benefits, and used his position in the government to shove it down everybody's throat.

So, we are looking at a stealth agenda, where we only see the results after they have become fait accomplit. No website, brochures or PR. Legislation and programs are put into place without a hint of public participation. It is a sad form of "reform" which is neither transparent nor fair. Hopefully, Bakhit's concept of reform is different from that of Badran and Muasher.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Parliament rejects four laws

In what looks like a first in Jordan, parliament today rejected four laws that had been passed as temporary legislation. This rejection has been expected. These laws were passed by the Badran government in its dying hours and days before the parliament was to convene.

Article 94 section I of the Jordanian constitution states that
"In cases where the National Assembly is not sitting or is dissolved, the Council of Ministers has, with the approval of the King, the power to issue provisional laws covering matters which require necessary measures which admit of no delay or which necessitate expenditures incapable of postponement. Such provisional laws, which shall not be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, shall have the force of law, provided that they are placed before the Assembly at the beginning of its next session, and the Assembly may approve or amend such laws. In the event of the rejection of such provisional laws, the Council of Ministers shall, with the approval of the King, immediately declare their nullity, and from the date of such declaration these provisional laws shall cease to have force provided that such nullity shall not affect any contracts or acquired rights."
This section clearly specifies what conditions need to be met before enacting temporary legislation, and these conditions were clearly not met.

Asides from the legal aspects pertaining to the way these laws were enacted, there are troubling questions about the substance of these laws as well.

The State Lands Management amendment in question allows for investors who have been delegated state land to resell after obtaining approval of the council of ministers. The current law only allows resale ten years after the delegation of the land. I believe that the whole issue of delegating state land for investors should be carefully looked at. There is plenty of private property in Jordan that investors can buy. State lands which have been set aside for parks, services or forests should maintain their status. The delegation of a public park in Um Uthaina for a real estate project should have been subject to more scrutiny. I think it was a mistake. Having said that, it makes sense that after these lands have been delegated, then the investors shouldn't have to wait ten years to be able to market their project.

The amendment to the Agriculture Law would redefine the definition of a "tourism project" to mean any productive project that conforms to the nature of the nature of the forest land. Previously, these lands could not delegated to other parties (investors). The amendment would allow for the council of ministers to delegate state forest land to investors in "governorates which need social and economic development in their areas" on condition that "the nature of the area is preserved and the trees are kept or moved to another location". Why should the trees be moved to another location? Shouldn't the project be moved to another location, and the trees kept where they are? Jordan has precious little forest as it is, and the current regulations have not prevented investors from using the Amman National Park or the Ghamadan Park. So, why do we want to give our forests away?

The modification in the Customs Law will disallow or lower the payment of interest to plaintiffs who win cases against the Customs Department. The customs department often overcharges people for what they pass through customs. To redress this, people sue, and as is typical in Jordan, these cases can last many years (the customs department makes sure that it last so long that people will not bother to try and get their money back). Of course, since intrests that accrue are large, the government does not want to pay. So, the amendment halves the amount of interest paid, and only calculates interest from the time of rendering of the verdict in court, instead of from when the law suit was initiated. So, instead of solving the problem by not overcharging people and not dragging the court cases forever, the amendment would again penalize the people who were aggrieved in the first place.

The gem is the Income Tax Law. The new modification in the law will increase the lower bracket from 5% to 10% of income exceeding a personal deduction of 8000 dinars. The personal deduction is increased but most other deductions will be eliminated. For the rich, the upper income bracket was lowered from 25% to 20%. Thus, the law is a gift to the rich, and a greater burden on the middle class. Typical.

Thus, all of these laws are designed to help the rich get richer, and to shift more of the tax burden to the poor. I hope that the parliament lives up to its duties and either insists on rejecting these laws or on severely modifying them, despite any threats they may receive.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Jordanian Yemeni University

I hate the way that our press announces momentous news in one sentence briefs. Al Rai has an example here. It says that Jordan will establish a Jordanian Yemeni university in Aden, to "enhance cooperation in the field of higher education between the two sister states". The item later says that the minister of higher education and the governor of Aden and the president of Aden University visited the location of the university.

This is a very interesting piece of news. I assume that the public sector in Jordan is involved, since the minister of higher education, Khaled Toukan, made the announcement. The question that arises is what are we committing to here? Money or expertise or both? Or is this just another rash announcement in the heat of sisterly affection that will never see the light of day? My guess is the later, after reading lots of these things in the past.

As we say in Jordan, Il haki ma a'laeih jumruk (there are no customs duties on talk).


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Parliament, the government and the constitution

Fahed el Fanek points out yesterday that the threat of parliament dissolution is a direct violation of the spirit of the constitution, which requires the executive branch to obtain confidence from the legislative, and not the other way around. This is an important point, since any talk of reform is simply just talk if the preeminence of the executive is to continue.

This threat started when there was a mutiny in the parliament at the time of the formation of the Badran government. The mutiny was aborted through the forced resignation of Basem Awadallah and the subsequent modification of the cabinet. The king later sternly warned the parliament, and the implied threat of dissolution was eminent. Now, the parliament seems to be going along with the Bakhit cabinet, but the question that this episode raises is profound. Should the parliament be a rubber stamp, or should it be allowed to perform its mandate? Various laws, such as an apparently regressive "reformed" income tax law are on the agenda. Haidar Rasheed at Alarab Al Yawm suggests that this particular legislation will be a test as to whether "reform" will be imposed, or whether the parliament will be allowed to do its job. I agree with Fahed Khitan, also at Alarab Al Yawm, that the executive should not be trusted with everything.

Much ink has been used to talk about the need to reform, and it looks like the National Agenda has been shelved. In any case, there was no discussion concerning changes in the parliamentary system anyway. The mandates of the various branches of government are still clear. In essence, my point is that we need to respect the letter and spirit of the constitution and the separation of authority. The calls for reform and democracy don't square with circumventing the parliament, as I wrote earlier.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Disi project

The shortage of water in Jordan has become a major concern to both the government and to average citizens. The official numbers tell us that the total consumption of water in the country is about 1300 million cubic meters (with a deficit of about 220 MCM). Of this, about 276 MCM is destined for domestic use, and the majority of the rest used in agriculture. In 2003, 96 MCM was designated for Amman.

Now, the government target for domestic purposes is about 200 liters per day per capita. Given a population of 5.3 million, this works out about 365 million, whereas the current supply averages 143 liters per day per capita.

While we currently get by using this volume of water, the question that is unanswered concerns the long term sustainability of the current system, given increased requirements posed by population growth and increased demands by tourism and industry.

The Disi conveyor system has been discussed intensively over the last ten years, and is considered to be one of the answers to the vexing question of water supply in Jordan. As it is envisioned, the project will supply about 100 MCM per year to Amman. What is delaying the project is the question of economic viability. The financial aspects have gone through much review, with the final decision being made to use government funds to build the project. This decision was made because the project is not tempting from a financial perspective. The supply is expected to last about 50 years (Al Rai's report says 40 in the middle of the article and 100 at the end, with no effort to explain the discrepancy). Eventually, the fossil water from the aquifer will run out.

So, the question is how badly do we need this project. We are still reading reports that the amount of leakage from the distribution is 50% in Amman, and 64% in Mafraq. In numbers, this suggests leakage of 140 MCM per year in Jordan. This number is greater than the amount slated to be pumped from Disi.

Now, the most important question to ask is whether the increased supply of expensive water pumped from over 300 km away will translate into more water for people? Specifically, since the distribution system leaks so much, will the new water supply simply slip away after we get it? Moreover, how expensive could it be to stop the leakage from the system? Estimates suggest that it is highly cost effective to invest here, and I would guess that it would be a better bargain than the Disi project. Every time water is pumped through the distribution systems, I see rivers of water flowing down the street. Nobody notices, and the Water Authority (or Lima) doesn't seem to care less.

I am not against the Disi project in itself. I just hope that we don't spend all this money just to have this precious water leak through our distribution system. The same goes for all the other water supply projects that are being implemented.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Where's the straight jacket, Part II

Previously, I have written about a little known genius known as Emad Mujahid. Today, I will highlight another great Jordanian, who is a professor at the Jordan University of Science and Technology. His name is Professor Awad Mansour. According to the JUST website, he specializes in numerical analysis, adsorption, fluid mechanics, environmental engineering, thermophysical properties, and optimization. Apparently, he cures the most difficult diseases as a hobby. Today, he announced that he has found the cure for malaria. Previously, he also discovered the cure for asthma, diabetes, and cancer (presumably all forms). He also discovered at new medicine to cure smoking. He has also discovered cures for hepatitis, as well as any disease you can think of. When he is not curing diseases, he is developing new ways to extract oil from oil shale. This is besides his contributions to literature, religious science and computer science.

Now, if this guy is for real, we should build a statue for him. If not, we should send him to Fuheis, or to jail. Either way, I think that we deserve to know.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Parliament elections

Abdulhadi Majali was reelected as the speaker of the parliament yesterday. This is the third time that he has been chosen during this term. Elaph reads the lopsided results (69 to 38) as being a defeat for the Islamists, who backed his rival Sa'ad Hayel Srour. While some deputies may have taken this into consideration, I believe that a different dynamic is at work.

One issue that might be at play is that the deputies have become comfortable with the way Majali runs the show. A more interesting development is the collapse of the influence of Abulraouf Rawabdeh. His alliance didn't contend for the post as it did last year, when Abdulkarim Dughmi ran. This time Dughmi was the chair of the ballot committee, in a sign that he had a neutral stance in the election. Rawabdeh and Dughmi's alliance didn't seriously contend for the major posts in the permanent committee.

From the looks of it, it seems that Rawabdeh doesn't care anymore. This might be because he has come to realize that Majali is a stronger force in the parliament, and there is no use fighting him. It also might mean that Rawabdeh thinks that the entire parliament might dissolve soon, and so any victory at this stage of the game is pointless.

I would also note that Rawbdeh was part of the Regions' Committee which was set up by the king to study dividing the kingdom into three regions. Apparently, he was unhappy with the whole project, and didn't attend the committee meetings nor did he attend the ceremony when the committee handed its report to the king. I wonder what's on his mind.