Our Corruption, Not So Discrete

Republished from: http://www.alghad.com/articles/937312-Our-Corruption-Not-So-Discrete?s=b5e3e8d8006bebe3917462e63c2554ad

Our Corruption, Not So Discrete

By: Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Mon 9 May / May 2016. 11:17 PM
  • Fahed Khitan
  • Fahed Khitan
  • Fahed Khitan

1

When Prime Minister Dr Abdullah Nsoor, not long ago, stated his government was corruption free; having not seen a single filed case of corruption over a relatively extensive period of time, it was granted.

However, we did remind the Premiere, at the same time, of the spreading petty corruption festered in our institutions, yet to no end; not a single “reaction” was taken, to reassure society that the intention is deeply installed to fence off this trend.

Last Tuesday, Transparency International boded us with the news of there being too much petty corruption in a number of Jordanian government departments. Our reputation seems to precede us on a global level, as corruption is no longer exclusive to the local eye! Alas, had our reputation be for countering corruption, not nurturing it!

Petty corruption —easily dismissed by everybody, including monitory devices apparently; stands a real threat to our society and societal structure, perhaps even out-scaling grand corruption. Petty corruption tolls on everybody, realistically speaking, not just the public servant. It means bribery has become acceptable to the citizen as much as it is to the public officer, in most and definitely not all cases.

Meanwhile, our —petty— corruption is not so discrete anymore; it has not been so in a while, before the Transparency Int’l report came out. And there many a story on how a public officer in this department or that was bribed, told by people without the least sense of guilt, reflective exactly, and massively, the degrees of alteration in Jordanian convictions and culture!

The phenomena will grow. And this comprises threat to the Country’s reputation, and its people’s. While not everybody accepts bribery, undoubtedly, still, impressions sometimes —if not always; are more dangerous than truth. 75 per cent of Jordanians, according to the report, believe corruption has grown over the past year.

The point is to say that the Jordanians’ idea on corruption still stands. Even though it may be not set in stone, what is however —in regards to the endurance of this impression, is the governments’ failure to alter the public’s image and conceptions. Notably, a considerable part of this may be caused by the fact that sentences regarding grand corruption cases, with the involved convicted, remain unexecuted.

Today, we need recognition, openly, of the issue of petty corruption; instead of it being whispered about. This recognition should entail action that would contain and address the issue, in order to retain what is left of integrity, as no matter how “petty”, this still reflects badly on Jordan.

Over the next phase, driven by scalable changes introduced to the Kingdom, we will have a new king of government, which was prefaced by Dr Nsoor’s current government, largely executive and technical. One of its main tasks would be to retain the good name and reputation Jordanian bureaucracy and bureaucrats, massively disfigured lately in the absence of accountability and monitoring, and mostly in the absence of conviction in the public service doctrine among employees, who give up their integrity —some of course— to compromise low pay, possibly caused by the over-inflatedness of the public sector.

Everybody is to blame. And the dismissal of this phenomena’s societal and cultural tolls on everything that we have, is no longer acceptable. This calls for a thorough review of the diagnostics of the situation, in order to uncover the real scale of the issue of petty corruption; not so discrete.

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Corruption Worse than 5 Years Ago in Jordan

Republished from CNN

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/03/middleeast/arab-spring-corruption-transparency-international/

By Sheena McKenzie

(CNN)Five years after the Arab Spring revolution brought citizens into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption and other issues, how much has really changed?

New governments were ushered in in several countries, with leaders promising a new era of accountability, openness, political freedom and economic opportunity.
But almost one in three people living in the Middle East and North Africa say they’ve paid a bribe to access basic services such as medicine, education, and water in the last year, according to areport by Transparency International.

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Why Tunisia’s success story risks falling apart 07:44
This figure represents the equivalent of nearly 50 million people, say the report’s authors.
The study also found that 61% of those surveyed believe the level of corruption had risen in their country over the last 12 months. Another 19% thought corruption had stayed the same, while 15% said it had decreased.
The situation was perceived to be the worst in Lebanon, where 92% of people said corruption had increased in the last year. This was followed by Yemen, with 84% believing that, and Jordan, with 75% of those questioned saying corruption had increased.

Bribes still paid in court, to police

Almost 11,000 adults from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen were interviewed as part of the survey.
Of the public sectors, almost one in three people who dealt with the courts paid a bribe in the last 12 months, according to the report.
When it comes to the police, around one in four people say they paid a bribe.
More needed to be done to protect whistleblowers, with 38% of those who did report instances of bribery saying they suffered retaliation as a result, said the study.
In effect, many instances of corruption go unreported, with 30% of people fearing retribution if they speak out.
“It’s as if the Arab Spring never happened,” said José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International.
“Leaders who fail to stop secrecy, fail to promote free speech, and fail to stop bribery also fail to bring dignity to the daily lives of people living in the Middle East and North Africa.
“Peoples’ human rights are seriously affected,” he added.

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The spark that brought fire to a region

The wave of protests and change began in January 2011 with the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old fruit cart vendor who set himself on fire in protest after police confiscated his cart. He had apparently refused to pay a bribe. Demonstrations following his death eventually grew into protests against the government and its policies, and President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in January 2011.
That sparked a wave of protests across the region, with people rising up against their governments and demanding change — a trend that came to be known as the Arab Spring.
In Egypt, tens of thousands of protestors gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to topple President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for nearly 30 years.
The following year, Mohamed Morsy — a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood — became Egypt’s first democratically elected president.
But in 2015, Morsy was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted on charges relating to violence outside the presidential palace in December 2012.

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Five years after uprising, Libya faces new challenges 01:56
Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi fled the capital after months of protests and was later killed when he was captured by opposition forces. A new unity government was only recently established.
Jordan’s King Abdullah announced sweeping reforms and the establishment of a parliamentary majority government following protests in his kingdom. An independent commission set up by Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa concluded that police used excessive force and torture against civilians in the crackdown against protesters there.
Despite hopes that the Arab Spring protests would herald a new era of transparency, social justice and economic opportunity across the region, the report makes it appear there is still a long way to go.
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Corruption Continues To Plague Jordan, And 5 Steps To Fighting It

Republished from Black Iris

Corruption Continues To Plague Jordan, And 5 Steps To Fighting It

http://www.heritage.org/index/embed/country/jordan

The Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom report for 2010 has come out and Jordan has actually improved.

Jordan’s economic freedom score is 68.9, making its economy the 38th freest in the 2011 Index. Its score is 2.8 points better than last year, with significant gains in fiscal, monetary, and investment freedom and improved control of government spending. Jordan is ranked 4th out of 17 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region and registered the sixth highest score improvement in the 2011 Index. Progress toward upgrading Jordan’s economic infrastructure has aided economic growth despite the challenging global economic environment. Levels of trade, fiscal, and investment freedom are relatively competitive. The financial sector has taken steps to meet international standards.

Public finance management and privatization have been key parts of the reform agenda. Social security and pension reforms are being followed by efforts that include public wage bill containment and capital spending reduction. Future planned adjustments include better-targeted capital spending, water and energy market liberalization, and private-sector development. Overall economic freedom is limited by corruption and the judicial system’s vulnerability to political influence. [source]

The graph below shows how Jordan compares to Bahrain and Qatar, both of whom rank high on the index scale, with the former ranking an impressive 10th globally. According to Transparency International’s 2010 report, Qatar is the least corrupt country in the Arab world, ranking 19th worldwide (UK ranks 20th, and the US ranks 22nd). It is followed by the UAE (28th) and Bahrain (48th) with Jordan and Saudi Arabia both ranking 50th on the list.

http://www.heritage.org/index/embed/visualize/?countries=Jordan|Bahrain|Qatar&type=9

-1.0 Points: Corruption is perceived as present. Jordan ranks 49th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2009. Influence peddling and a lack of transparency have been alleged in government procurement and dispute settlement. The use of family, business, and other personal connections to advance personal business interests is seen by many Jordanians as a normal part of doing business. [source]

That’s a scary quote right there: “as a normal part of doing business”. Unfortunately, anyone who has lived or worked in Jordan, specifically those who have started up businesses here, are likely to find this statement true. Bribes are often considered a standard operating procedure, helping largely to facilitate what is ordinary difficult to do. This, in my opinion, is one of biggest reasons as to why corruption persists in the business sector; organizations basically make payments in exchange to facilitate something that is legal but burdensome and troublesome to fulfill ordinarily. If bureaucratic barriers were lowered, there might be a better chance that corruption in this arena could see a drop.

Corruption remains the biggest impediment in Jordan, but not only when it comes to the economy, but social development as well. With the gap between rich and poor widening, there’s a bigger need now more than ever for corruption to be fought extensively in the name of reform. I am not talking about window-dressing scapegoats and the infrequent case that floats to the surface but rather a consistent pursuit of corruption in a country with plenty of it. To their credit, the Rifai government has probably done most in this pursuit, with two major cases emerging this year: one of which resulted in the jailing of fairly significant figures over the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company scandal, and another, Mawared, which is currently under investigation. Both are significant for the mere fact that they involve, in their own respective manner, important figures in the local business and political arena, and both are cases that, several years ago, no one would have thought the government would dare pursue. Unfortunately, with the former case, a complete media blackout was imposed by the prosecuting State Security Court, and so information as to what exactly took place is unknown. Suffice to say, those prosecuted and sentenced are serving jail time, luxuriously.

While the Mawared case is still under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Committee, early signs seem to indicate what most people already thought to be true – that there was indeed massive corruption by officials when it came to land sales, specifically those that stirred a great deal of controversy in early 2008, such as the sale of the port of Aqaba and the proposed sale of the Medical City in Amman. It seems thousands of emails were found to have been deleted by the government’s investment arm, in a likely attempt to conceal evidence. How this case will turn out remains unknown, but one can only hope the media will play its role in keeping a spotlight on it – or that they’ll be allowed to by the judiciary.

Although these two cases are far from enough to indicate any real progress on the prosecution front, they do seem to highlight the fact that business and politics are a typical mix in Jordan’s world of corruption. Last year’s Global Integrity Report seemed to indicate as much, with the Government Accountability and Elections categories receiving the lowest scores, specifically when it came to executive and legislative accountability. Things may have improved slightly in or two of these fields, but not nearly enough to set a proper precedent.

The media remains one of the pillars of transparency-inducing entities in this, or any other country for that matter, and it seems that while the number of corruption cases have increased in the past year, with the biggest cases being related to money being stolen from ministries such as the Agriculture and the Industry and Trade ministry – such events do not seem to be reflected in the local media. This is what lead me to wonder a while back whether corruption has really been on the rise in Jordan or whether we are just perceiving it to be.

So what are some of the steps that need to be taken?

1) Public officials should disclose assets, and information should be made public.

2) Media blackouts on corruption cases should not be in place unless the case involves national security or puts lives in immediate risk.

3) Establishing new channels to facilitate access to information by media.

4) Empowering monitoring bodies through independence and not merely legislatively.

5) Establishing an effective whistle-blower system that is empowered legislatively, and ensures anonymity.

These are perhaps some of the initial steps that need to be taken, which do not seem to be on the government’s radar – at least publicly speaking. However, one important measure is self-awareness and self-interest. The government needs to recognize the importance of transparency in helping to create a healthier business environment for better forms of long-term investments in a country that truly needs it, as well as the social dynamic of lowering unemployment through increased job opportunities, to say nothing of changing dominant perceptions about government and corruption in a country where the gap between rich and poor is growing, and the latter is becoming increasingly restless about it. The prevailance of corruption is why confidence is so low amongst the people when it comes to their government as a whole.

Signing a pledge to be ethical may be a step in the right direction by the Rifai government, but in this field, Jordan needs to be taking leaps. And there is absolutely no impediment or reason not to – if the goal is to truly reform the status quo, that is.

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GSK Investigating Claims of Bribery in Jordan

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), Britain’s biggest drugmaker, said on Wednesday it was investigating allegations of bribery involving some of its staff in Jordan and Lebanon, following earlier claims of corruption in China, Poland and Iraq.

“GSK can confirm we are investigating allegations regarding the activity of a small number of individuals in our operations in Jordan and Lebanon,” the company said in statement.

“We started investigating using internal and external teams as soon as we became aware of these claims. These investigations have not yet concluded.”

GSK faces its biggest challenge over corruption allegations in China, where authorities in July accused it of funnelling up to 3 billion yuan (287 million pounds) to doctors and officials to encourage them to use its medicines in a case that rocked the pharmaceuticals industry.

This month its reputation was placed under a further cloud by claims of similar wrongdoing in Iraq and Poland. Poland’s Central Anti-Corruption Bureau said on Monday that 13 people had been charged, although GSK said it had found evidence of misconduct by only a single Polish employee, who was disciplined.

The company said it did not have a systemic issue with unethical behaviour and said the 161 violations of its sales and marketing policies in 2013 was very similar to rates reported by other pharmaceutical companies.

GSK recently took steps to tighten up its marketing procedures, including a move to stop the practice of paying doctors to speak on its behalf and tying compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write.

The latest allegations about Jordan and Lebanon were first reported in the Wall Street Journal, which cited emails from a person who first contacted GSK in December.

The emails alleged that GSK sales representatives bribed doctors to prescribe drugs and vaccines by issuing free samples to doctors that they were allowed to sell on.

GSK staff were also alleged to have permitted doctors to bring their spouses on paid-for business trips and speaking engagements that may not have taken place, according to the emails.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

 

 

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LETTER FROM JORDAN: KINGDOM OF CORRUPTION

Republished from the Nation: http://www.stephenglain.com/articles/letter-from-jordan-kingdom-of-corruption

 

Poetry as political manifesto has a long history in the Arab world. The Prophet Mohammed frequently won over converts to Islam with elegant recitals. Caliphs often deployed serrated verses from their court poet to undermine rivals. So in January, when revered Jordanian poet Haider Mahmoud wrote a thinly veiled ode to King Abdullah II warning him about deepening corruption in the Hashemite Kingdom, the palace quickly went to work–on him.

Mahmoud was attacked in Jordan’s state-controlled press as a traitor, and his son was pressured into resigning his position at the foreign ministry. Jordan’s then-prime minister, Faisal al-Fayez, ordered the mayor of Amman to fire Mahmoud as general director of the city’s cultural center. (Faisal backed off after learning the position was unpaid, but Mahmoud resigned anyway.) The offending poem–titled “Saray,” a Turkish word for “the palace,” but also “the sultan”–became known to Jordanians only after it appeared in a London-based Arabic-language newspaper because no local publisher would touch it.

Mahmoud, who generally avoids controversy, says he wrote “Saray” out of concern that Jordan’s vertiginous corruption threatens the integrity, and perhaps the very survival, of the monarchy. “It was not an attack,” he says. “I care for this country. The poem was a message from the people to the leader against the corruption around him.”

Mahmoud got off easy. These days, public criticism of the Hashemite monarchy can lead to official harassment, detention, arrest and imprisonment–usually in rapid succession. Since February 1999, when Abdullah assumed the throne after his father died of cancer, Jordan has become increasingly authoritarian. At a time when several Arab regimes are at least feinting toward political reform, Jordan is goose-stepping backward. Freedom of assembly has been restricted, and the threshold for dissent has been ratcheted down as political prisoners accumulate and oppositionists are rattled out of bed for interrogation. Journalists have been intimidated or bribed into spying on colleagues and sources. Street demonstrations have been all but eliminated by laws that require protesters to carry permits that are prohibitively difficult to obtain. The tax burden on ordinary Jordanians has intensified as living standards steadily recede. The appeal of Islamic groups is rising inversely to the monarchy’s diminished credibility, even among the kingdom’s traditionally secular, closely knit and increasingly restive tribes.

Corruption, defiantly uninhibited compared with the low-key looting that percolated under the late King Hussein, has soared. And although diplomats tend to absolve Abdullah of wrongdoing–he is deceived, they imply, by courtiers scheming behind his back–a growing number of Jordanians believe that the 43-year-old monarch is not only aware of the plundering but may be very much a part of it.

“I don’t think the monarchy enjoys any popularity with the people,” says Toujan Faisal, a former member of Parliament who was jailed for 100 days three years ago after she accused the government of graft. “King Hussein tolerated a margin of corruption, but not the extent to which it exists now.”

In short, Jordan has degenerated into the kind of despotic kleptocracy the Bush Administration says it will no longer tolerate. But tolerate it the White House does, inclusive of the roughly $450 million in annual economic and military aid that has become the standard rate for maintaining Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and its support for America’s “war on terror.”

True, Washington has always indulged Jordan, a buffer state between Israel and the other Arab nations–the country is even shaped like a bottle stopper–by turning a blind eye to its human rights abuses. And it was Hussein, after all, who installed as heir apparent the little-known and unseasoned Abdullah just before he succumbed to cancer. In February the State Department gave Jordan a delicate reproach in its annual human rights report. But beyond that, the kingdom is under little public pressure to fight corruption and allow its rubber-stamp Parliament and feeble political opposition to assert themselves.

“The Hashemites are the fair-haired boys,” says a US government official. “The King is such a sycophant, telling Washington what it wants to hear and bashing people like [Syrian president] Bashar al-Assad, that they get away with everything.”

Americans got a glimpse at the dark side of their plucky Arab ally early this year, when President Bush was asked at a news conference about Ali Hattar, a Jordanian mechanical engineer who spent a night in jail and was fined after he publicly condemned Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and called for a boycott of US goods. Bush was unaware of the case, which had been otherwise overlooked by the Western press.

Hattar was only the most recent target in a series of controversial arrests and detentions that have followed Abdullah’s ascension to power. In December 1999 Khalil Deek, a US citizen, was arrested in Pakistan and deported to his native Jordan on suspicion of having links with Al Qaeda. He was interrogated without a lawyer present and jailed without charge, only to be released two years later for lack of evidence. Faisal, the former parliamentarian, was jailed in March 2002 for “spreading rumors that incite disturbances and crimes,” among other charges, and was freed after a monthlong hunger strike. The former university lecturer says she was imprisoned only after security agents tried to buy her silence with offers of money and luxury cars. “I asked for reform and was offered only bribes and then jail,” she says.

In January security agents staged a midnight roundup of Islamic leaders who had criticized government policies while leading Friday prayers. Several were taken to a police precinct and left there overnight. According to the government, the men were detained for violating the state’s laws on preaching and spiritual guidance. “It was very, very savage treatment,” says Abdul-Lateef Arabiyat, former secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front, who like most of Jordan’s established Muslim leaders is fiercely moderate. “This would not have happened under King Hussein.”

Then, in early March, leaders of Jordan’s Professional Associations Council, a federation of white-collar unions, called for a sit-in to protest a draft law they say would neutralize their ability to organize and mount the closest thing Jordan has to political opposition. Police shut down the demonstration by cordoning off the council’s headquarters, the fourth time this year that authorities have banned such an assembly. Security agents also detained a television news crew that had filmed the incident and confiscated its video.

“Even during martial law [during Jordan’s 1970 civil war], public gathering was a right for the people,” says Hussein Mjali, who in March resigned as head of the Jordanian Bar Association to protest the draft law. “Now it is a gift from the ruler.”

The steady erosion of civil liberties is matched only by the seismic growth of corruption. A large share of the private fortunes that fled war-torn Iraq has been deposited in Jordan, where it is leavening an underground economy that had already thrived off the UN-run Oil for Food program. Enormous villas have mushroomed in Amman’s most fashionable districts, and luxury cars choke the city’s roads. It is a gross and potentially destabilizing display of wealth in a country with an annual per capita income of $1,700, chronic unemployment and a population growth rate of 2.6 percent. And in harmony with Jordan’s growing tolerance of corruption, this month King Abdullah agreed to overturn the 1992 conviction of Pentagon outcast Ahmad Chalabi, now a deputy prime minister in Iraq’s new government, for his role in the collapse of a major Jordanian bank. “There is a new look to the corruption in Jordan,” says journalist Abdullah Abu Romman. “Traditionally, we’d say the corrupt man is a thief. Now we look up to him as someone who was smart enough to avoid getting caught.”

Enter the Shaheen brothers. From humble beginnings as West Bank vegetable merchants, Khaled, Riyadh and Akram Shaheen have established themselves as the Jordanian government’s contractors of choice. According to a 1999 Times of London story, the Shaheens have known Abdullah since Khaled met him at a sports event in Dubai nearly ten years ago. Khaled, reported the Times, “went on to shower [the King] with gifts, including, allegedly, a Porsche.” Not long after Abdullah’s coronation, the government dropped Mercedes-Benz as its fleet automobile and logged a massive order with BMW–which had only months before tapped the Shaheens as its local distributor.

Since then, the Shaheens have rung up one major contract after another. In 2003 a Shaheen-controlled company was given a large share of a contract to train Iraqi policemen, even though it had no experience in such work (the value of the Shaheens’ share is unknown, but the total cost of the operation could surpass $1 billion). In March 2004 a Shaheen subsidiary won a $72 million Pentagon contract to supply fuel to coalition forces in Iraq. The deal was canceled a week later because the company was unable to meet its obligations. It turned out the Shaheens knew nothing of the oil-supply business beyond what they learned by smuggling more than 7 million barrels from Iraq in 2003, according to an investigation by Britain’s Financial Times and Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore. A government spokesperson said there is no relationship between King Abdullah and the Shaheens.

Business continues to come the Shaheens’ way despite their poor credit history. In 1995 Jordan’s Arab Bank sued the family to recoup $40 million in outstanding loans. Five years later the Standard Chartered Bank of London filed suit against the brothers for unpaid debts worth $77 million. “The Shaheens have been a factor for years,” says a diplomat in Amman. “They have given the consistent impression that this is not a level playing field. And it doesn’t help when they talk about having top-level protection.”

Charges of corruption have even tainted Jordan’s awqaf, the charitable trust that in Islamic countries is an important source of finance for social welfare programs. Ghazi Zaben, a first-term parliamentarian, recently opened an investigation into awqaf funding, and is also looking into allegations that the former minister of awqaf and Islamic affairs, Ahmad Hilayel, profited from hajj-related travel packages. Hilayel, who was replaced in a recent Cabinet shuffle, was attacked in Mecca late last year by pilgrims angered at what they said was price-gouging by companies related to him.

Zaben, a plastic surgeon by trade, said he launched his investigation because of discrepancies between what the awqaf was reporting as allocations to his district and what his constituents were actually collecting. “These numbers don’t add up,” says Zaben, leafing through a file of documents several inches thick. “At this point we can’t say the awqaf is corrupt, though we do know [Hilayel’s wife] has stakes in companies that arrange trips to Mecca and those crowds obviously thought they had a good reason to beat him up. That’s why we’re having these hearings.” Corruption probes in Jordan have a way of getting blocked, however, and Zaben says he has already been pressured by Hilayel’s “good will messengers” to back off. “Frankly, I don’t think I’ll get very far,” he says. “But it’s worth it. Perhaps it will encourage other MPs to launch their own investigations.”

Zaben represents the Central Badia district, a cluster of villages linked by rutted, single-lane roads. It is inhabited largely by the Beni Sakhr, a once-powerful tribe that has been diminished over the years by poverty entrenched by official neglect. Like many Bedouin tribesmen, the Beni Sakhr lack the skills needed to survive in a modern economy, and the state has failed to provide them with adequate education and vocational training.Zaben considers himself fortunate to have secured the state funds needed to build a new highway that will dramatically cut the time it takes to get from one end of Badia to the other. Projects like this, he says, help him compete with the Islamists for influence among his constituents. “People are now more religious,” he says above the din of a steamroller smashing chunks of granite into a foundation for the new road. “What else do they have?”

Zaben tours his district, a mere forty-minute drive from Amman, in his son’s late-model Jeep Cherokee. He is warmly welcomed as he calls unannounced on homes made of cinder-block walls and corrugated steel roofs suspended by narrow, roughly hewn wooden beams. The average income here is about half the national level and most families rely on the awqaf to get by. Beni Sakhr tribesmen used to be well represented in Jordan’s armed forces until the government required new recruits to have at least a high school education.

“We’re not getting the schools we need,” says Awad Shamoor, a minor sheik, after greeting Zaben in an outdoor circle of tea-sipping notables. Shamoor, a security guard at a high school, makes about $100 a month. He is affluent by Badia standards, with two of his seven children in college. To finance their tuition and other expenses, he has been selling strips of his estate–land that has been in his family for generations–to wealthy Palestinians. “I used to own 200 dunams [about 800 acres],” Shamoor says between sips of tea. “Now I’m down to ten.”

As Shamoor’s estate has dwindled, King Abdullah has expanded his–or at least that’s how some Jordanian dissidents are interpreting a May 10, 2000, government memo. In the memo, a copy of which has been obtained by The Nation, the Aqaba Regional Authority informs the land registrar of a decision “to register all the land that belongs to the treasury that is in field no. 1 and also the land no. 51 which is in field no. 3 from Aqaba land, in His Majesty Abdullah’s name”; in a similar memo, dated less than a year later, the registrar orders its regional offices to “register land in Naour, Lipat, Bilalal, Um Qasyr, Samek, in the name of His Majesty, Abdullah, [and] to cancel land use…from list no. 7…for municipal use and re-register it in the name of His Majesty Abdullah (God protect and preserve him).” The government spokesperson acknowledged “swaps” between crown property and public land, but only to expedite public-works projects. In such exchanges, she said, the value greatly favors the state rather than the crown.

Rumors of a royal land grab have simmered for years. In 2001, according to a source close to the palace, Abdullah sold for $43 million property his father confiscated under martial law in 1982. The palace denies this. Laith Shubuilat, a former parliamentarian who has spent much of his political career in opposition, says a recent decision to let the army control Jordan’s largest freshwater reserve will give the King de facto control of it.

“The army is the King’s power base,” says Shubuilat. “The King is robbing the government and the army is his bagman.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is in Jordan today a transcendent nostalgia for the light touch of the late king. Six years after his death Jordanians of all ethnicities and sects–even among those who oppose the monarchy–speak mystically of Hussein as if he were still among them, like a twitch in an amputated limb. It is why many cherish the 25-year-old Prince Hamzah, Hussein’s son by Queen Noor, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his father and is said to have inherited his legendary charisma and body language. Days before his death Hussein made the elevation of Abdullah as his successor conditional on Abdullah’s maintaining Hamzah as crown prince and heir apparent.

Last year Hamzah abruptly vacated his offices to make room for a primary school run by Queen Rania for the children of Amman’s rich elites–a conspicuous and somewhat ironic move in a country with a failing public school system. In November Abdullah relieved Hamzah as crown prince–a gesture, the king declared in a televised message, that would allow his half-brother “more freedom of movement.” Following the announcement palace officials phoned journalists and recommended they keep the reporting to a minimum. “We were told it was purely a family matter,” says Randa Habib, Jordan bureau chief for Agence France-Presse.

In response to his dismissal, Hamzah sent the king a verse from the Koran, published by several Jordanian newspapers, about the hypocrisies of unjust leadership.

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Bedouin tribes accuse Jordan’s Queen Rania of corruption Criticism comes at a difficult time for the monarchy, whose authority has been sapped by growing political unrest

Republished from the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/15/bedouin-accuse-jordan-queen-corruption

 

Queen Rania Jordan

In an unprecedented move the leaders of Jordan’s main Bedouin tribes have published an open letter addressed to King Abdullah II accusing his wife, Queen Rania, of corruption. The text, released on 5 February, is signed by 36 representatives of the main Bedouin tribes. It comes at a particularly difficult time for the king, whose authority has been sapped by the growing discontent voiced by demonstrators.

On 9 February the recently appointed prime minister, Marouf Bakhit, announced a new cabinet including several leftwing figures and an Islamist. But this timid opening seems unlikely to end the unrest.

Until now the monarchy had managed to play on the opposition’s instinctive loyalty. “It is not the king who is to blame,” Hamza Mansour, the secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood), recently told Le Monde, “but the clique surrounding him.” The outlook seems even more uncertain now that the tribes have added their voice to the tide of criticism.

The letter makes no direct reference to the issue of the country’s fragile ethnic balance, but claims that the queen, of Palestinian parentage, has created centres of power serving her own interests. This trend upsets the agreement on governance between native Jordanians and the royal family, posing a threat for the monarchy.

“We call on the king to return to the treasury land and farms given to the [queen’s] Yasin family. The land belongs to the Jordanian people,” the letter demands.

The king’s council made a counterattack, with the Howeitat tribal confederation publishing several communiqués in support of Abdullah.

The queen often appears on the covers of gossip magazines the world over, with endless comment on her glittering lifestyle, in particular her lavish 40th birthday last August in the Wadi Rum desert.

Jordan “will sooner or later face the flood of Tunisia and Egypt due to the suppression of freedoms and looting of public funds,” the letter warns. It endorses several of the demands expressed by the Islamist opposition.

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Corruption in Jordan

This blog is dedicated to being a database of the emetic and gossamer corruption in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  Hopefully it will be a source for researchers, journalists, and internet surfers. We also hope to update this blog with new developments pertaining to the pernicious corruption in Jordan. As the Anti-Corruption Commission of Jordan has declared, they are not yet equipped , financed, or supported enough to surpass their weak role in Jordan today We hope this changes soon.

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