The IMF and World Bank have both praised the economic and political reforms Jordan launched in the 1990s. The reforms touched domestic taxation/subsidy polices, trade liberalization polices, monetary/financial sector polices, exchange rate polices, price reform and privatization, largely accomplished between 1992 and 2004. Some scholars have described this praise over the top and euphoric. Nonetheless, both organizations claim that Jordan vastly exceeded expectations in the last decade's austerity and economic liberalization programs. Likewise, many consider the political reforms carried out in roughly the same period (1989-1999) to be a great step forward in democratization. In 1993, The Guardian affectionately lauded King Hussein's zeal for democracy and human rights. Indeed, the election of 1989, Jordan's first since 1967, and the loosening of restrictions on the press and other associations seem to confirm this assessment.
[...] In the early and mid-1990s, the government raised taxes, decreased or eliminated what were once hefty subsidies, and froze salaries: while this was not as bad a situation as the economic crisis of the late 1980s, it was unpopular with people who still had memories of the semi-rentier political economy of the 1970s. Moreover, any number of political parties would have re-instated the subsidies: significant contingencies of communists, Arab socialists, and other left-wingers had ideological commitments to re-distribution in addition to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties who supported subsidies for reasons of social justice. [...]
[...] Steps toward Political Liberalization In November 1989, the Jordanian regime held an election in order to maintain its legitimacy and therefore power. Political parties (except, again, for the Muslim Brotherhood) had not been legalized, but no credible accusations of voter fraud occurred. Additionally, for the first time in the history of Jordan, the Mukhabarat refrained from voter intimidation. The Muslim Brotherhood won a plurality of seats, but a non-Islamist coalition of tribal interests, left-wingers, and pan-Arabists kept it from forming a government. [...]
[...] Between 1993 and 1999, the maximum tariff rate on Jordanian imports was cut in half—from 70% to 35%. More importantly, the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement was the first such agreement between the United States and an Arab country, and only its fourth overall. First proposed in 1995, and ratified in 2000, seeking its implementation was one of King Hussein's major policy goals in the last few years of his reign. U.S. President Bill Clinton insisted that in order to be duty-free, Jordanian exports to the United States were required to contain a certain amount of Israeli-made materials. This capitalized on the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. [...]
[...] Steps toward economic liberalization Jordan began discussions with the IMF and World Bank in 1988, but the Gulf War delayed completion of a recovery plan until 1992. Recommending free- market reforms for rapid development, its prescriptions were in many ways the same as those recommended to countries in economic crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The IMF focused on reducing Jordan's deficit by spending cuts and raising taxes. These taxes included a seven percent (later raised to ten percent) national sales tax in 1994: previously the only direct taxes Jordan laid were various tariffs. [...]
[...] Much like the situation post-war Japan, the National Assembly makes the Jordanian people feel in control while the monarchy (or the bureaucracy in Japan) makes the lion's hare of substantive decisions. Tellingly, much civil society in Jordan—theoretically a lynchpin of free association—is in fact controlled by the state. According to Quintan Wiktorowicz, all civic organizations must be registered with an appropriate ministry, which is responsible for “reporting, inspecting, observing, and counting collective activities” for all such organizations. Thus, it is wrongheaded to assume that because things are “more democratic” than they used to be in Jordan therefore political and economic liberalization are compatible. [...]
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