Letter to Marouf Bakhit on swift and decisive measures needed for reform

From King Abdallah II of Jordan
To Marouf Bakhit
RE: Reform
22 March 2011
Translated from Arabic

In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate

Your Excellency Marouf Bakhit,

Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.

I extend to you and your colleagues, the members of the Cabinet, my greetings and thanks for your efforts to uphold your responsibilities and duties in implementing the requirements of the Letter of Designation in the face of persistent challenges. We are all determined to stand up to such challenges by unifying our ranks in one national camp that is aware of the root causes of these challenges, and which understands the transformation under way in our society and the current situation in the region. Jordan is not alone in experiencing socio-economic pressures. People are voicing their hopes of shedding the burdens of poverty and unemployment, of having jobs that guarantee a decent living and of participating in the political process and the making of their future.

In this context, I bear in mind the achievements of our Jordanian people throughout 90 years, since the inception of the state that was built by our grandfathers and flourished at the hands of our fathers. I can see how remarkably determined they were to proceed with the development process regardless of the difficulties they faced, and I take pride in the achievements made in the fields of education, health, infrastructure, knowledge-based economy and advanced technology.

We have reviewed the progress since the resumption of democratic life more than 20 years ago, and remain keen to achieve comprehensive reform. We have seen different stages of the modernisation process; at some stages, we made substantial success and on other occasions we noticed there were forces pushing the march backward; one group engulfed it with ideas inconsistent with progress and another exploited prevailing conditions to push the process off-course towards corruption at the expense of the people and the progress of its creative youth who seek reform and a new Jordan where creativity, pluralism, equal opportunity and full commitment to human rights are the norms.

Your Excellency,

There is a host of reform-related issues that need swift and decisive measures, follow-up and evaluation. These must be made priorities in the government’s action plan and on the agenda of all concerned institutions. These issues are:

  • Uprooting corruption. The corrupt must be chased, eliminated and isolated. If there is any more talk of fighting corruption after that, I want it to be a mere discussion of the concept rather than a necessity. Therefore, institutions tasked with this job are expected to eliminate all pockets of corruption, whether the perpetrators are big or small, and sue and punish them as required by the relevant laws in our country, which is a state of law and institutions. I also direct that the Anti-Corruption Commission to issue a monthly report documenting its achievements with transparency and responsibility so that public opinion is kept abreast of these.
  • Laws governing political reform should be completed. I am fully confident that the National Dialogue Committee will accomplish on time its mission to produce a modern elections law that ensures the representation of all our people, along with the Political Parties Law. Meanwhile, the executive branch will complete the Public Gatherings Law and the Municipalities Law, on the basis of which the municipal elections will be held this year, including within the Greater Amman Municipality, after the law passes all constitutional channels.
  • The independence of universities and guaranteeing their freedoms in the academic, intellectual and creativity aspects are essential. I hereby direct the government and all concerned agencies to end the interference students complain of in their affairs, unions and political orientations, because this is a new age that does not accept such practices. We do not want the freedom at universities to lag behind the best practices of freedom and creativity in any other university in the world. I have asserted during my meetings with youths that their freedom is protected and their dignity is part of my dignity, and I have urged them to embrace freedom for the sake of their homeland, and the values of justice and life. Therefore, immediate action should be taken to prevent any party, whatever it might be, from interference in university affairs.
  • As for the national media in all its forms: print, visual, audio, and electronic, it must, as we believe in the freedom of the press, work with high professionalism and a sense of national responsibility for this country, whose attempts to progress never cease, a country that does not give up its dreams and aspirations as it moves forward towards freedom and a life of dignity. We have witnessed a decline in the performance of official media, which has led to its failure to deliver the message of the Jordanian state the way it should be delivered. Jordan is a country of freedom and creativity, where the opinions of others are accepted, and pluralism, justice and the rule of law are respected. In light of this, I direct the government to draft a media strategy founded on freedom and responsibility, taking into consideration contemporary developments, including new tools of communication. Such a strategy should be coordinated with all concerned parties in the public and private sectors and should be ready within two months, to include a revision of all legislation governing the media, so as to protect citizens from abuse and defamation. Our call for supporting the media is linked to full support for our creative artists and writers, whose contributions continued despite the meagre support they have had. It was painful to see artists, rallying in the streets of the capital days ago, mourning Jordanian art. Our cultural and media institutions should support the legitimate rights and demands of intellectuals and artists.
  • Comprehensive reform is an end rather than mere means. We understand the political mobilisation and calls of the young; they represent a national voice that is part of ours, and we are part of it. Relying on these people, we can achieve real reform and produce a Parliament that represents all Jordanians. This will reinforce the outcome of the national dialogue and political reform and entrench the values of justice, transparency and integrity. As I underline the necessity to achieve political reform, I am aware that our biggest battle field is the economy. Our people have withstood poverty, unemployment and job shortages. We have exerted great efforts to realise reform, which, admittedly, has seen some flaws, especially in light of a strangulating global financial crisis. I expect new economic measures within three months, entailing practical steps to create jobs in partnership between the public and private sectors and enactment of laws pertaining to investment, consumer protection, prevention of monopoly and streamlining of the local market. Consumers should be protected against price fluctuations, and the gains of economic reform, in which Jordan has gone a long way, should be maintained. The government should also provide every support to the private sector to allow it to play its envisaged role efficiently.

Social justice, expanding the middle class and fair distribution of development gains should be at the centre of the government and the private sector’s attention; not just in words but in deeds, so that citizens will feel their effect on their daily life. Local and foreign investment, especially that coming from Arab countries, has been and will always be a pillar of Jordan's economy, and existing investment should receive due care from the government. Moreover, a clear plan should be drawn up with guidelines on how to attract high added-value investments that create jobs for Jordanians and overcome all obstacles that impede a flexible relationship with investors. I expect this plan to be completed within a month. Regarding vital projects in the fields of water, energy and infrastructure, proceeding with these is not a matter of choice, but rather a necessity for the economy and future generations. The government has to make certain that these projects are implemented according to fixed time frames and that citizens are kept abreast, with complete transparency and honesty, of the details of these projects.

A Jordanian judiciary that enjoys independence and integrity is what guarantees justice and equality among members of the community. We have gone a long way in the past 10 years towards enhancing the independence of the judiciary and developing the judicial system. We have to maintain this approach so that citizens and investors rest assured that their civil and financial rights are safeguarded.

Your Excellency,

The Constitution guarantees equality among citizens. According to the administrative and legal disengagement regulations with the West Bank, some Jordanian individuals and families have been subject to treatment that has violated their citizenship rights. I assert that Jordan is for all Jordanians, and no citizen will lose any of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the law. I call for the revision of the files of all those who have been subject to injustice, emphasising at the same time our unwavering keenness to support the steadfastness of our brothers in beloved Palestine and our stand upholding the sacred right of return.

Your Excellency,

We belong to a country that defends its progress, sovereignty and image as a democratic state. Reform and acceptance of opposition are not new to this country, which seeks concord and harmony among its people in all their affairs. We rely on our constitutional democratic system to support this pursuit, and we have a great heritage of freedom and justice and a promising future that unite us in our devotion to this country.

I will no longer accept excuses for interrupting political and economic reform. Your Excellency is required not to accept any excuse from those who fail to do their jobs, and cite unconvincing reasons for failing to execute their responsibilities, particularly in education, health and administration. Similarly, it is not acceptable that red tape remains a hindrance in the way of meeting people's demands and needs in a country that is scientifically and technologically advanced.

As I address this letter to you, highlighting the key issues facing us, I urge every Jordanian to exhibit a resolute and strong will to protect his country, its Constitution and accomplishments. I urge all those who believe in reform to walk united towards achievement, so that those who are reluctant to move ahead cannot derail the chance for a better tomorrow.

Again, I thank you and your colleagues the ministers and salute all Jordanians, expressing my support for them and urging them to act. We are aware that the challenges are great, but the will of our people is greater.

May God save and guide you to the right path, and lead us to success in achieving the aspirations of our people for progress and welfare.

Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.

Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein
Amman, 22 March 2011