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Good government communications breed good will from the people

May 05,2018 - Last updated at May 05,2018

My friends already know that I find it difficult to go along with what appears to have become the Jordanian’s political explanation for all Jordanian problems. All I hear these days is how the government, and mostly the prime minister himself, is at fault and lacking in empathy or concern for the citizens’ economic and financial pain.

I find it difficult to go along and participate in assigning blame to this government for the dire economic situation we face today. I find it difficult to accept that this government is responsible for small and large corruption patterns, low education standards in both schools and universities, increased crime rates and normalisation of nepotism, falling professional standards among public sector employees, lack of accountability by professionals like doctors and engineers, potholed streets and highways causing unnecessary deaths and the many more problems we all know and discuss all the time. 

And part of my difficulty lies in the fact that it actually is not this government’s fault that we have so many critical problems to resolve today. It is the accumulated responsibility of many governments, which sought personal gain or popularity at the expense of the public good. We, the people, share in that responsibility because over the many decades of government malpractice, we developed and institutionalised ways of operating under what was essentially a corrupt and inefficient government. Instead of collectively coming together to push back and reject, we accepted and adopted what has become an epidemic attitude of prioritising self-gain. 

Yet, having stated at the onset why I am uncomfortable with the negative atmosphere that has been created around this government and which has doggedly undermined all its efforts and plans from the first days, I must also state why I believe this government has not been able to shake off the criticism and negativity surrounding it, but appears in fact to be falling further under it.

The government has not been able to articulate its driving passion and commitment to Jordanians or communicating how it is acting upon that passion and commitment to achieve the urgent interests, in fact needs, of the people.

Was it through fighting corruption? Then where are the daily updates, messaging, proofs of its commitment, success stories and policies in place? Where are the visionary, and clean, women and men it employed to fight corruption? How is the Public Security Department working with the government to combat drugs, traffic violations, building violations, littering and mismanagement of public funds? How are different government departments meeting and collaborating to end all corruption at all levels, including how contracts and tenders are handed out? Where is the transparency? I believe there is good effort in that direction. I hear disparate bits of news here and there. But there certainly is not a clear message from the government to report on its performance to those who matter most: the people of Jordan who are being asked to pay for past governments’ mistakes.

If it is not corruption, although I cannot see why the government would not be seeking to focus on that, is it education reform? The messages on education reform, much welcomed by the people, are emanating from the ministry itself and are perceived as an individual effort when we all know that a whole enabling environment had been created by the government and other parties to ensure that the efficient and driven minister is able to deliver concrete reform. Is that message reaching the people? I see that the communications around this achievement have been allowed to showcase the success of the ministry and the minister, and hats off to both for taking on the huge task, but not the government, which should have been able to score at least some points for what is effectively a government policy. 

Is the government focused on the Kingdom’s financial health? Great. That is what we want. But what is the Jordanian citizen hearing from the government on that level? Increased prices and increased taxes are the only “urgent” messages coming out at a truly frightful speed: “Mulki’s government raises fuel prices”, “Mulki’s government increases taxes” etc.  But where are the news items that say for example: “Mulki’s budget provides funding for infrastructure support to education reform” or “Mulki’s government begins implementation of transportation solutions” or “energy solutions”. The initiatives may be taking shape on the ground, and leaked news here and there may showcase government effort, but the government does not get the credit in these impression-forming headlines. 

What it does get credit for is adding burden to the already burdened citizen, who not only has to provide for his/her family, but also cover the cost of benefits that should have been the government’s responsibility to provide in the first place.

Do Cabinet members sit together taking decisions on prices and forget to ask the most important question: what positive benefit can we report to the citizen he or she will be receiving in return for this payment? Does the Cabinet understand that these increases constitute payment from the citizens to the government to provide services? I believe that it understands but is failing to deliver the message back to the citizen and list the services it can provide against this extra financial dividend. 

Jordanians need to know that the money being collected from them is going to cover a cost they approve of or addresses their needs. It is not acceptable that citizens have to pay more to cover budget deficits, especially when they believe that these deficits were caused by corruption or mismanagement of funds. It is not their job and it certainly should not be the message they receive.

The list of communications blunders is extensive. It is not possible to go through all the “miss-messaging” incidents that quickly stripped this government of credibility and eroded any positive credit it might have had among the citizens. 

And it may be too late to fully reverse the trend against Prime Minister Hani Mulki’s government now, but it is not too late to try to address the structural causes of failed political communications in Jordan, and with it perhaps allow the government to begin to climb back up and showcase the good work it had done.

As a communicator who worked with many media outlets in Jordan for over two decades, I witnessed first hand how those structural fault lines have been contributing and feeding citizen’s lack of trust in government for many years. These may be most starkly showcased in how Jordanians treat Mulki’s government today, but this “show” has long been coming and if not addressed at its roots, may yet damage the performance of any government in the future regardless of how it performs.

The government should urgently create a scientifically informed, credible, non-reactive and influential communications body and network that is not solely security driven, nor allowed to haphazardly manufacture messages and news without strategic pre-design. 

This communications infrastructure must align its messages with the political intention of the regime, the mandate of the government and most importantly talk to the modern-day aspirations of the Jordanian people with all their ethnic, origin, religion, age and gender diversity. 

The government should invest politically and financially to support its political communications in at least two directions: through its government spokespersons through training and exposure to other international and best practice models, and in its own media channels including Jordan television and radio, but also the local print media outlets and radios — in which it has control — to ensure that there is financial and human resource investment in their upgrade from old-fashioned government mouthpieces to modern-day instruments of smart and citizen-sensitive media. 

There must be an inspiring and quick media revolution, adopted at the highest levels of government, to achieve this change.

Today, both the government and the people are struggling to find a better place. And although I seriously believe that Mulki’s government does have the interest of the country and Jordanians foremost in its mind, I do not think it has been able to communicate that sentiment to Jordanians in order to win their trust. 

In that sense it has failed to build a commonality between government and people that would allow them to work together and in sync to achieve what is best for the country. In the absence of good communications from the government that could inspire good will and respect from the people, it is not surprising we are where we are today.

 

NermeenMurad@gmail.com

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Comments

Let me try again, can I ask Nermeen what effect the 2016 Amendments to the Constitution have had on the role of government re her article above?

YES, NERMEEN IS CORRECT THAT THE PRIME MINISTER SHOULD NOT BE BLAMED ALONE BECAUSE A TREE CAN NOT MAKE A FOREST. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT TAKES A LOT OF TREES TO MAKE A FOREST ONLY AND ONLY WHEN THESE TREES SHARE ONE COMMON GENES OF SURVIVAL IN COMMON. WE CAN NOT FORGET WHEN IT WAS ALLEGED THAT SOME BIG ALGRICULTURAL COMPANIES ARE PLAYING WITH GENETIC MODIFICATIONS AND GIVEN THE SEEDS OF CROPS FOR FREE TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES TO ENHANCE THEIR THEIR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIONS BUT THESE CROPS FROM CORN TO THE HOST OF OTHERS WILL ALSO KILL ANY SIMILAR BUT UNMODIFIED CROPS PLANTED IN THE SAME AREA AS THE PESANTS FROM AFRICA PLANTS THEIR LOCAL SEEDS. THE INTENDED OR UNINTENDED COSEQUENCIES COULD BE TO MAKE THE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES DEPENDENT ON DEVELOPED COUNTRIES FOR THE FUTURE CROPS TO BE PLANTED AND SO , POWER MAY CORRUPT ABSOLUTELY. UNLIKE JORDAN, YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO DRIVE YOUR CAR IN MOST AFRICAN COUNTRIES TODAY FOR OVER TEN MILES WITHOUT PAYING A BRIBE FOR NOTHING OR YOU GO NO WHERE BUT JAIL IF YOU TRY TO CHALLENGE THEM AND SO JORDAN IS FAR BETTER THAN OTHER COUNTRIES.
THAT JORDAN IS FAR BETTER THAN OTHER COUNTRIES DOES NOT MEAN THAT JORDAN CAN NOT DO EVEN MORE BETTER. THE ISSUE WITH THE JORDANIAN CASE IS THAT JORDAN IS A NATION BORN OUT OF WASTARISM, TRIBAL POLITICS, POLITICAL ACTIVITIES IN A COMPACT STRATA AND CONSULTS WITHIN THE SAME STRATA WITHOUT THE INCLUSSION OF THE PEOPLE. FIRST, WOMEN NEED NOT TO APPLY OR DARE COME INTO THIS STRATA TO VOICE AND SHARE THEIR OPINIONS. THE POOR TRIBAL COMMUNITIES JUST ONLY WANT BREAD FOR THE DAY AND THEREFORE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT WHATEVER THAT IS GOING ON. YES, WE ARE GRADUALLY TRANSFORMING WHAT USE TO BE AN EXAMPULARY EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM IN JORDAN INTO JOKES AND KOCKERS BECAUSE WHO GETS IN OR NOT IS NOT BASED ON ACADEMIC MERIT ALONE BUT AN EXTRAPULATION OF WASTA. WHO ARE THE PRESIDENTS AND THE DEANS OF ALL THE PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES IN JORDAN TODAY? CAN THE GOVERNMENT PUBLISH THESE STATISTICS SO THAT THE PUBLIC CAN DRAW THEIR OWN CONCLUSISIONS AND SUGGESR REMEDIES. THIS IS THE MAIN REASON WHY THESE INSTITUTIONS THAT ONCE THRIVING CAN NEVER SUPPORT THEIR INSTITUTIONS WHITHOUT PUBLIC FUNDS THAT THE POOR PAY FOR THE RICH AND POWERFUL, QUALIFIED OR NOT. IRONICALLY, IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS CHAOS AND DISINTEGRATION OF SYSTEM, THE RICH, THE POWERFUL, THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS END UP SENDING THEIR CHILDREN TO TO THE WEST AT THE EXPENCES OF THE PUBLIC FUND WHICH INDIRECLY KEEPING THE STATUS QUO.
IS JORDAN A CORRUPT COUNTRY, THE ANSWER IS " YES " BUT RELATIVELY. CORRUPTION IS NOT THE ONLY CAUSE OF THE STAGINATION WE SEE TODAY BUT ALSO CAN BE SAID TO BE RELATED TO BE FACT THAT PEOPLE HAS LOST HOPES AND HAVE NO VOICE WHICH THE GOVERNMEN DOES NOT WANT BUT TAX THEM TO DEATH. WHY IS IT THAT ONE GALLON OF PETROL COST $5.600 IN JORDAN TODAY?. WHILE SOME BLAME IT AS THE " THAK YOU " FOR SUPPORTING THE WARS IN THAT REGION AND OTHERS LINK IT TO THE ZERO ACCOUNTABILITIES TO THE GOVERNMENT MISUSE OF THE RESOURCES THROUGH THE FUELLING OF THE CARS OF THE TEAM PLAYERS THAT PAYS ZERO DINNERS FOR FUEL USED FOR WORK AND AT HOME SO THE EXCELLENT IDEAS OF NERMEEN FOR TRANSPARENCY IS AN EMPTY SET WITH ZERO DOMAINS.
CAN THE PARTICIPATION OF THE PEOPLE BE USEFUL IN DRAINING THIS SWAMP? YES ONLY IF THERE IS AN HONEST AND CLEAR MESSAGES TO THE PEOPLE FROM THE PEOPLE. WE ARE NOW IN A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF MIS-INFORMATION CALLED THE FAKE NEWS AND RUMMORS SO MOST OF THE INFORMATION BEING BEAMED TO THE PEOPLE IS EITHER OR NONE OF THE ABOVE. IF SO, CAN
NERMEEN TELL ME HOW SHE EXPECT THE COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURES TO BE THE OUTPUT COMMING FROM THE JORDANIAN PEOPLE IRRESPECTIVE OF ETHNICITY, ORIGIN, RELIGION, AGE, AND NEVER MIND THE VOICES OF WOMEN ( THE SO-CALLED GENDER DIVERSITY).
MY ADVICE TO NERMEEN IS TO TRY TO GET PEOPLE LIKE HER TO THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE, READ AND DIGEST YOUR ARTICLES, ENGAGE IN GRASS ROOT EFFORTS TO DRAW THE ATTENTIONS OF THE CURRENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. TOO BAD THAT YOU HAVE ALL THE RIGHT TOOLS NEEDED TO CLEAN UP THIS MESS THAT ONLY APPEARS AND DISAPPEARS FROM THE RATHER WEEKLY OR BI-WEEKLY WHILE THE REST OF JORDAN CONTINUES TO SLEEP ON THE WHEELS.

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