The newspapers are buzzing with the interview His Majesty King Abdullah has given addressing issues that have been troubling Jordanians for some time now. I did not realise how bad the situation in Jordan has gotten until I read the interview. The skyrocketing prices, the land sales, the Jordan Festival, the McCain episode, the casino deal, the vicious rumours circulated by the media, the ever-growing skepticism towards the government's actions (which I admit to have been a part of), the conflict between parties that stoops to a new low everyday. Things have gotten so bad that the King felt obligated to exceptionally speak very frankly about these issues, basically to shut people up and end the controversy, and I have tremendous respect for him because of that.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
"The high prices are on everyone's mind. This is a problem the whole world is suffering from and the developing world, which we are a part of, is being hit the hardest. No government in the world, as far as I know, has found a short-term answer to completely shield its people from the high prices, anyone who claims otherwise is being unfair.
The government has taken several measures to protect citizens against the high cost of living...I am the first to admit that this is not enough and that we need to do more and we will do more, God willing."
About the Land Sales:
"Selling government land to pay off international debt, which Jordan recently did, has saved current and future generations from paying high interest payment on the debt.... I want to remind people that we have paid off $2.4 billion of our debt this year.
..the debate should not focus on whether the government has the right to sell public land or any other public asset for that matter, because it obviously does have the right to sell land, but how the proceeds from the sales are used? If the process is transparent, and if the benefit of selling outweighs that of maintaining ownership, then this represents an opportunity that the Jordanian people should benefit from.
...I welcome, and indeed encourage, public criticism when it comes to the question of transparency and to whether some government assets should indeed be sold. In any country, sale of government assets is usually controversial. But currently the level of debate in Jordan has dropped to unacceptable levels with overdramatisation, rumours and opinions that are based on total ignorance of the issues; to the point where, even mature and lucid criticism is drowned out by rumours and ignorance."
About the Jordan Festival:
"Today, Arab artists are contemplating cancelling their performances and Arab tourists who were planning on visiting Jordan are cancelling their trips. The government is now wasting its valuable time and resources trying to do damage control. All this because some so-called journalists are too careless and incompetent to do their basic work; it is shameful....Should Jordan's future be held hostage to rumours and gossip? And should false information be the reference for our Jordanian press? Should we remain silent until the truth becomes the victim of irresponsible journalism?
Let us assume for a moment that it is in fact Publicis that is helping to organise the event. In fact, I cannot think of a major company that does not do business with Israel. If all these companies are offlimits then we are in deep trouble. For example, Intel whose chips power 80 per cent of computers around the world has billions of dollars of investments in Israel; its closest competitor AMD also has large investments in Israel. Does that mean we should throw our computers away? This is nonsense. If we follow this line of thought, then we will be doing the best service to Israel. All it has to do is use the best technology and best talent in the world and automatically it would be offlimits to us. "
"I am extremely shocked and dismayed at the low level of debate transpiring in some elite and media circles. Throughout my life I have grown accustomed to rumours about myself and my family, as well as Jordan; but today, I feel that these rumours are negatively affecting the future of Jordan and I simply cannot remain silent. "
"I remember once having a conversation with my father, God rest his soul, about rumours circulating around a certain government official. He told me to be very careful before repeating anything I heard, because he said the difference between a lie and the truth is very simple - proof. He said that people who make dangerous claims that can jeopardise people’s reputations and careers without any proof are either ignorant or cowards. He told me that we would never allow Jordan to be hijacked by cowards and the ignorant. Today, this is my message to my brothers and sisters, the honourable citizens, that public policy will never be held hostage to rumours and ignorance. The world is becoming an increasingly complicated and technical place. I realise that some governments’ policies may be misunderstood and may face public discontent, indeed governments may sometimes make big mistakes, but if anyone has any proof of any intentional wrong-doing, please stand up and let it be known. My door is open. I am honoured to belong to a Hashemite Family that is firmly shut to rumours and irresponsible discourse."
"We should read about the world around us before we judge ourselves and let us learn from the experiences of others, let us be open to the world and unafraid, for this is the only way we will progress. Let knowledge be your weapon and don't believe rumours, especially when someone tells you "it's from reliable sources".
Finally, know that you mean everything to me."
It is at times like these that I feel proud to be a Jordanian.
P.S. How ironic is it that Ammon started the news piece with the paragraph about how rumors are negatively affecting Jordan and should not be tolerated?