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Little is expected from new panel to reform public sector — experts

bisher khasawneh
(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The new committee to modernize the public sector, formed by Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh last week, has been met with mixed reactions by experts, with most recalling the outcome of similar committees formed in the past and of an entire ministry dedicated to this goal, which was abolished in 2018. The new committee, headed by the prime minister, held its first meeting on Sunday.اضافة اعلان

Former minister of Public Sector Development Maher Madadha called this “the old new issue”. He told Jordan News that the plan to reform the public sector has been going on since the late 1990s, but now is the time to expand on the dialogue to continue the entire reform process. However, he said, people might resist such reform, especially if they do not see the outcome.

He also warned of exaggerated expectations from the committee.

“The committee is not the one that should make the reforms; it is a steering committee. It should draw a roadmap to deal with targeted issues,” Madadha said.

“It has to lay out needed policies and plans and assign the duty of the implementation process to a different official body. The whole country should be responsible for applying the committee’s recommendations,” he added.

Madadha, whose experience as minister was challenging due to what he called “resistance to change”, said that reform may have an impact on public officials, “so they would be the first to resist it”.

“Most of the reform plans failed because the people who would apply the recommendations did not have the true will to execute them. So each government would leave the issue for the next one because they did not want to lose the support of the people,” Madadha added.

Economic researcher and former minister Jawad Al-Anani told Jordan News that the newly formed committee is essential as the country faces challenges like obstruction of development, investment and decision-making processes.

“There is a strong will to reform and modernize now,” Anani said, stressing that the government is going in the right direction as long as it prioritizes reform.

He recommended creating sub-committees of the new committee that would be more specialized and focused and that would be responsible for improving the administrative process and dealing with issues related to training and the recruitment process. Most importantly, the goal must be to minimize bureaucracy that Jordanians and foreign investors struggle with.

Both Anani and Madadha agree on the need to include private sector stakeholders in the committee.

There are, however, experts, like Hassan Riyati, a lawmaker and a member of the Labor and Development Parliamentary Committee, who question the ability of the new committee to bring about real change and reforms.

“I am for any move toward reform and support the reform committees. However, on the ground, we do not see that the government is serious about it,” Riyati said.

By way of illustration, he mentioned the importance of the Audit Bureau’s annual report, which documents misuse of public funds but whose findings are usually ignored and get “no real accountability”.

“Many of the abuses remain unaddressed and are repeated annually, as if the matter did not concern the government,” he said.

Riyati said that fundamental reform can only be achieved through serious intentions and commitments, a firm decision-making process, and holding wrongdoers accountable, irrespective of who they are.

Radi Al-Atoum, former director-general of the Institute of Public Administration, is concerned about the members of the committee; their names have not been made public yet.

“This committee is a committee of ministers who are already busy and will not have the time to research and understand what needs to be done,” Atoum told Jordan News..

He suggested that each committee should be specialized and include 10 experts led by a minister, and would be responsible for legislating a reform plan as they will need more than a year to produce an objective scientific method and recommendations.

“The current committee members do not have the time and are not aware of the details of how things work,” Atoum concluded.

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