Jordan: Fighting Corruption, New York, and the Economic Crisis

Writing for 7iber, the Danish Ambassador to Jordan HE Mr Thomas Fouad Lund-Sørensen brings up his country's experience in countering corruption and how Jordan could benefit from that experience, particularly, that Denmark recently ranked first in the anti-corruption index, published by Transparency International (TI). He writes:

Let’s have a look at my own country, Denmark that once again topped the ranking of non-corrupt countries. There are a number of reasons for that. First, and foremost, the Danish society has through the years developed a widespread culture against corruption. Starting in the 17th century, corruption was made a criminal offense and enforced rather strictly. The next major achievement came during the 1920’s where a code on public servants that guaranteed a reasonable salary, job security and pension in particular for the lower echelons was adopted, and corruption laws came under review. Today, it is morally and utterly unacceptable to provide or receive anything that could resemble corruption. An example – trying to bribe your way out of a speeding ticket or into a construction permit will certainly get you an extra criminal charge on your neck.

Where does this leave Jordan? The Kingdom ranked 47 in the TI ranking, which is actually not that bad, and a 10% improvement compared to last year’s ranking. I have not firsthand witnessed any kind of corruption in Jordan, but I have, like everyone in the country, heard of possible incidents either directly or from press and reports. And I don’t think Jordan has a choice. Like the other small resource-deprived countries on top of the list there is only one way to become a wealthy Rule-of-Law country and that is to beat corruption, whether in the form of political vote-buying or in its domestic form of wasta.

In the end, it boils down to a change in culture towards rewarding merits instead of socioeconomic ties, and creating more transparency in public affairs. Some serious steps have been taken already, a number of them with Danish support. The establishment of the anti-corruption commission, training of law enforcement and the ombudsman bureau are examples but the real long term hurdle will be changing the culture of favoritism.

More on the Ambassador's view on fighting corruption here.

Meanwhile, Lina Ejeilat, a student at Columbia School of Journalism, writes about her experience in New York City:

I’m sitting outside the Journalism School building, working on my pitch for the New Media Masters project while watching some kids playing on the lawn and enjoying the gorgeous Fall weather. This campus just feels like a park sometimes.

A tiny mouse just passed by. I got so used to these by now, and they’re a much more tolerable sight than the big rats you occasionally see crossing the subway rails. Those are some of the rare moments where I actually miss Amman’s stray cats. You don’t see stray cats on the streets here, but I’d take cats any day over rats and mice.

But this doesn’t make me love New York City any less. One of the amazing things about this place is that it takes you in as one of its own very quickly. Just give yourself one week of living here and you no longer feel like a foreigner. You get on the subway and you see people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds imaginable. No one is too different in New York. It’s a city of sub-cultures, and whatever your niche, you can be sure to find enough like-minded people who share your interest

One of our main classes at Columbia this semester is “Writing and Reporting I”, and what basically happens is that you are assigned a beat to cover – a neighborhood that you report and write stories on all through the semester. My beat is Red Hook, in Brooklyn, and I find the place so fascinating and interesting. In a way I feel that beat reporting enriches my experience of New York, because I get to explore aspects that I would’ve probably not explored otherwise.

More from Lina, here.

And finally Naseem Tarawneh addresses the impact of the global economic crisis on Jordan:

Of all the things Jordanians tend to talk about, it is simply interesting to see the global financial crisis rank first in coffee-house conversations. Some are arguing that this is the “end of America”, while others are looking at it from a more personal perspective: how will something that is so global affect Jordanians? Will banks hold back on loans? Will the Dinar continue to sink to the pegged-anchor that is the American dollar? Will the crisis induce prolonged inflation? Will purchasing power take a plunge?

More or less, the conversation in Jordan seems to be driven back to that debate of how sustainable this economy is with its growing reliance on Gulf-driven development projects. It’s funny how Jordanians tend to be very tangible when it comes to this debate; they want to see the end-game, the final result of such projects. It seems hundreds of them are announced but few of them unfold, or so the general perception holds and that is typically the argument for the opposition. All of these projects do take a lot of time and the fact that their source of funding comes from the Gulf does not mean they’ll be constructed at the same pace of Gulf-based construction.

More on Naseem's opinion on the Jordanian economy, here.

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