Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good cop, bad cop

Recently, the king announced a massive housing program dubbed "Honorable housing for an honorable life". Over 100,000 housing units will be constructed all over the country over the next five years in order to help low and limited income people find affordable housing. The government will provide the land and the infrastructure, and contractors from the private sector will build the housing at their expense. In exchange for the land and infrastructure, the contractors will give half of the units to the government, and will sell the other half at their own discretion. This novel scheme will allow the government to sell the apartments at low prices (around 15,000 JD), and the banks will provide long term financing. Everybody should be happy, so it is hoped.

And yesterday, the king ordered to the government to delay raising the prices of liquefied petroleum gas and livestock feed until the end to the year. This delay will cost the budget 160 million JD. Everybody is happy here, as well.

Actually, the king is asking the government to spend money that is not in the budget, which is not allowed. Article 49 of the constitution clearly states that "Verbal or written orders of the King shall not release the Ministers from their responsibilities". Of course, the parliament will willingly amend the budget to allow the expenditure, but in a normal system this would not be taken for granted.

The thing is, some columnists erroneously see these initiatives as the king intervening to "correct" the policies of the government, which only take into consideration the financial and not the social ramifications of economic decisions. Of course, while some might want this impression to take hold, it is a quite preposterous thesis. Economic policy since king Abdullah took the throne has not changed significantly, despite the fact that we have had six prime ministers (who were chosen by the king). I am sure that if the king wanted a different economic policy, then he would have found a PM who would be happy to oblige. But he did not. It may be true that uncontrolable factors may be at play that may be limiting the room for maneuvering, but it would be wrong to simply blame the government (any government) for that.

And people are not fooled. Despite the fact that the most draconian economic decisions have been made by PM Dahabi, recent a public opinion poll show that his popularity has not changed since he took office. Clearly, people do not view him as being such a bad cop.

Just saying.


At 3:59 PM, Blogger Mohanned said...

Off topic;) Do you have any inside info on the ruling of imprisonning the five journalists? Or are they waiting for a Royal decree to set them free?

Ahh, people sometimes amaze me!

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

A demure unfunded mandate tends to add additional stress on the already ailing economy and moreover exacerbates the deficit in the overinflated state budget.

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Mohanned: Once we compromise on freedom of speech, as with the case of the CARTOONS, then all freedom of expression becomes negotiable. Once we truly adopt freedom of expression as a core value, things will change. Until then, well, you see what.

Hatem: It used to be that impotence was a flaw. Now it is an excuse.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger FadiMalian said...

well said and brave .. but be careful .. and by the way your comment to mohanned is even braver ..

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is an attempt to redistribute the kingdom's wealth... to somewhat narrow the gap between rich and poor. I hope it doesn't make all of us poorer ..Om N

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Om N: Welcome to my blog! I think it will make us all richer.....In insight.


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