Opening the Second Ordinary Session of the 15th Parliament
5 October 2008
(Translated from Arabic)
Prayers and Peace be upon Our Master Muhammad, the Honest Arab Hashemite Prophet
Honourable Senators,Honourable Deputies,
Peace, God's mercy and His blessings be upon you,
In the name of God, and with His blessings, we inaugurate the Second Ordinary Session of the Fifteenth Parliament, continuing our democratic progress and enhancing its role in expanding grass-roots participation, and activating its role as legislator and monitor, through you, the homeland's senators and the nation's deputies. You are the elite of the noble Jordanian people who seek a better future and the complete institutionalisation of the state, the inheritor of the message of the Great Arab Revolt. You are the grandsons of leaders who dedicated themselves to the glory of this homeland and the dignity of its loyal people, in fulfilment of the principles of the revolt and its noble message.
The economy still tops our priorities, especially its social dimension, due to the economic challenges that resulted from international rising prices. In spite of all the obstacles and challenges, Jordan is advancing on the right path, towards a comprehensive awakening that is the essence of our vision and its ultimate goal. Thus, the government is committed to implementing a set of policies, in the priority areas, in cooperation with the legislative and judicial authorities. The government is also committed to presenting quarterly reports to the legislative authority that explain the programs already implemented and that inform all those concerned about developments and new orientations in these fields. The government will employ these reports as an objective indicator on the level of performance and achievement.
At the top of national priorities, there stands, in the medium-range, economic reform and the completion of a strong national economy that reflects positively on Jordanians' standard of living. Our vision here is based on the government's commitment to providing basic services of highest quality to citizens, to fulfil citizens' needs and respond to their priorities, to doing what is necessary to harmonise the level of health, educational and infrastructure services in the capital, the countryside, Badia and refugee camps, and to ensure a just geographic distribution of development returns. We emphasise that the government is resolved to develop the relationship between the Ministry of Labour and the National Aid Fund, so that the beneficiaries would be engaged in vocational training programs that qualify them to join the labour market and contribute to economic activity.
The government will implement a social security net that guarantees the delivery of financial aid to those who need, and deserve, such aid, to empower them and protect them economically. The government will also seek to expand the comprehensive health care umbrella, in cooperation with the private sector, and prepare a map for health services in the Kingdom to serve as a point of reference to study and define future health needs and priorities.
Last year, from this house of the nation, I directed the government to mark the year 2008 as the year of housing. Thus, the "Decent Housing for Decent Living" initiative was born. It is being implemented now, and my government is committed to empower more than 100,000 citizens to own proper housing over the next five years.
Achieving the economic prosperity which we seek requires the immediate application of a set of measures to guarantee financial stability and enhance the investment environment. Among these measures is controlling inflation to protect citizens against rising cost of living, activating banking policies that guarantee the safety of banking institutions and their reputations, and elevating the monitoring tools of depositors and guaranteeing clients' rights.
Among the most important measures required of the government in this regard is linking salaries to inflation averages, increasing the allowance for improving living standards to protect the work force and retirees, and firmly establishing justice on the basis of merit. To implement this step, I have directed the government to raise salaries as of the beginning of next year, so that this increase will be confirmed in the budget for 2009. The minimum wage also will be raised in a way that provides decent living for a large sector of citizens. My government will present to your esteemed parliament a new tax law that would motivate promising sectors and contribute to enhancing the investment environment.
I have already directed the government to adopt a system for job planning in public sector institutions that is based on the principle of merit in promotion, on appointing efficient and talented people and on evaluation and continued training. I have also directed the government to take the necessary steps to promote and attract investments, especially Arab Gulf investments, because we feel that those brotherly states wish to invest in Jordan. The government will continue to provide whatever is needed for the infrastructure in the special development and economic zones, in Aqaba, Mafraq, Irbid and Maan, and in other regions in the Kingdom.
Realising food security is a top priority. Thus, we seek to care for farmers and animal breeders and to direct subsidies of animal feed to those who qualify. In parallel, the government will promptly implement the natural grazing fields project, in accordance with the plans laid for that purpose, within the comprehensive program to develop the Jordanian Badia.
My government continues to subsidise bread for all sectors of society. Food security complements water security and the provision of energy. Therefore we have asked the government to expedite the implementation of a strategy that seeks to provide a fair share of water to each citizen, increase storage capacity, develop existing water resources and build more dams and water harvesting projects.
In the energy sector, successive rises and fluctuations in oil prices impose upon us the need to quickly identify renewable and alternative energy sources and to expedite the implementation of the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes project. The government will define the time frame for the implementation of the nuclear energy, oil shale and wind projects, and establish the completion dates for these projects, so that all Jordanians will benefit from them.
The realisation of any progress is linked to establishing a legal and judicial environment that guarantees the rule of law and the integrity of the judiciary. Based on our belief in the separation of authorities, and in the principle of the independence of the judiciary, the government will draft the necessary legislation to expedite legal procedures.
Our vision for social and economic development goes hand-in-hand with our vision for political development, which aims at expanding participation in decision-making and implementation, and at anchoring the principles of participation and accountability and equal opportunities. Participation in decision-making and implementation, especially in the governorates, requires envisioning a local administrative system that tends to be decentralised and that guarantees quick and efficient implementation.
Within that context, we formed a specialised Royal commission to lay down the best concept for local government administration in the Kingdom's regions on the basis of these regions' needs and priorities.
It is important to emphasise that reactivating local government administration is the best means to expand the basis of public participation and to foster political, economic and social development.
Today, it is rather necessary for the government, in cooperation with your esteemed parliament, to re-study the recommendations of the regions commission and draft legislation, based on those recommendations that aim at empowering local communities to define their developmental needs and programmes and follow up their implementation.
Expanding political participation, comprehensively at the national level, is an ambition that requires urging some social groups, especially youth and women, to participate in elections, to be involved in the different fields of public service and to assume leadership in them.
The status we aspire for Jordan to have, at the Arab and international levels, in connection with freedoms and political openness, requires hard work and effort from all those concerned to entrench the culture of democracy, adopt dialogue as a means for civilisational outreach, and maximise grass-roots participation in an environment governed by tolerance, freedom of opinion and the promotion of innovation.
This requires from the national media, institutions and individuals alike, basic and effective contributions. These media are the people's eyes on the truth and one of the pillars of our democratic society. Here we call on all those concerned in this field to cling to the principles of professionalism and objectivity, to keep the necessary balance between public freedoms and personal rights.
The elevation of the level of criticism and boldness in exposés and commentaries should be paralleled by an elevation in research techniques and data, examination and scrutiny. Journalism is a noble profession that aims at protecting public interest, preserving society's common good and guiding public opinion, without misleading others and transforming personal opinions into public truth.
The major guarantee for the continuation of development and prosperity is the preservation of our security, stability and the rule of law that protects rights and freedoms.
Our armed forces, the Arab Army, and the security institutions, have always been the homeland's invincible shield. They are the watchful eye over the security of the homeland and its citizens, and the protector of the homeland's progress and achievements.
In addition to those august national responsibilities, which the armed forces and the security institutions have shouldered with utmost efficiency and capability, they are today, praise be to God, playing a critical developmental role by helping to fight unemployment through the National Company for Employment and Training.
This company will shield thousands of Jordanians against unemployment, through technical training job placement.
From this house of Jordanian democracy, we all send a greeting of pride to the chivalrous officers and soldiers in the armed forces and security institutions, the protectors of freedom and independence, confirming our commitment to support them, care for them, provide them with the most modern weaponry and equipment and the highest level of training and rehabilitation, and to continuously work to provide decent living for them and their families.
On the Arab level, our fundamental, firm stance is that the Arab realm is our first vital sphere. We were, and still are, keen on reaching out to and coordinating with our Arab brethren and on deepening our relations with them. Our role in common Arab action is well known to all. We are thoroughly keen to employ our international relations in the service of Muslim and Arab causes, primarily among them, the Palestinian issue.
We are likewise keen to preserve Jordan's political and economic interests. We believe that establishing Arab institutional consensus and unanimity is the best way to support our Palestinian brothers in their national struggle, and to empower them to regain their full rights. Out of our keenness to empower our Palestinian brothers to attain their rights and establish their sovereign independent state, on their national soil, we will continue to support them in all ways and means, until the Israeli occupation is ended and the desired Palestinian state is established.
We are also keen to support the Iraqi people and stand by them until Iraq regains its natural status in its Arab and Islamic sphere, and until Iraqis enjoy security, stability, progress and prosperity. As for the Iraqi brothers who live among us, they are our brothers and our guests. It is our duty to care for them as brothers who are facing difficult circumstances, until the day comes when they will be able to return to their homeland and territory.
We pray to God, may He be exalted, to entitle this session as one of hard work and honest giving, where the spirit of cooperation with the other authorities prevails, and where public interests come first, in compliance with God's words in the Holy Quran:
"Cooperate in acts of righteousness and piety. Do not cooperate in acts of sin and aggression" (Al-Ma'idah: 2)
We pray to God Almighty to grant you success and wisdom, and to protect and preserve Jordan; a land of security, stability and prosperity.
Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.