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August 19 2022 5:52 AM ˚
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Public sector reform: Failure is not an option

2. Khalid Dalal
Khalid Dalal is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works currently as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News. (Photo: Jordan News)
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For many people, the recent Cabinet decision to form a public-sector reform committee, chaired by the premier himself, is all too familiar, a déjà vu of tasks intended, but not satisfactorily executed.اضافة اعلان

However, thinking positively, it may be a step toward achieving something indispensable that complements the reform process, an important link in a chain of processes that make up the whole picture of Jordan as a modern state taking confident steps into its second centenary.

To be fair, a degree of success has been achieved by former administrations, mainly related to the e-government project, but much more needs to be done. The present stage, however, is a make or break endavor, and failure is not an option.

Failing to deliver or a purely cosmetic change will definitely widen the gap between the public and the government at a time when people are eager to see some good results regarding a long list of files, including political reform, economic recovery, fight against corruption, improvement of the quality of services and education.

The government’s rationale is a good start to consider. Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh said during a Cabinet meeting that “modernizing the public sector has become necessary for economic reform and reforms related to modernizing the political system”.

The diagnosis of the current situation is also correct. Khasawneh acknowledged that declining performance and red tape are major obstacles, and that this necessitates a rehabilitation of human resources to better serve tax payers and investors.

The picture is expected to become clearer once analysis of the situation is completed, and the soft spots in the system are pinpointed.

Another positive element underlined by Khasawneh is the “realistic” time frame of six months, within which the ministerial panel will carry out the mission of working out a “comprehensive roadmap and an executive program to modernize the public administration and streamline and develop procedures”.

Also encouraging is the Cabinet’s promise to work in partnership with the private sector and independent experts along three lines: legislative, institutional, and service improvement.

Success in this endeavor promises good rewards, especially since civil servants are in direct contact with the people, who would notice and commend any improvement. This would help restore public trust in the government to a large degree.

Of course, the automation of government services will help get rid of many unhealthy practices, like wasta. But that is not enough. Much work is still needed to change the attitude of many government officials to positive. This is a two-layer job involving incentivizing good performance and applying accountability for poor performance indiscriminately.

A blind eye can no longer be turned toward misconduct in the civil service. There must be focus on certain agencies with a bad reputation to eliminate bribery and ill-gotten gains from government jobs. Being underpaid is never an excuse for a civil servant to ask for or accept a bribery.

Transparency and activating the roles of ombudsmen and auditors are the answer to many bad practices.

Citizens should be completely confident that they do not need wasta when they meet all the requirements of the transactions they have with the government and have all the required documents. At the same time, investors need to be apprised of their rights and dedicated a hotline to report any violations of these rights when dealing with a public agency.

The government has six months to draw the strategy and commence executing the action plan. Let us hope that if a new government replaces the incumbent one, it will embrace this vital mission and carry it out as planned. The public will certainly respect that.

The writer is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works currently as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.


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