Leading Jordanian royal blasts kingdom's corruption problem

Leading Jordanian royal blasts kingdom's corruption problem
Jordan's Prince Hamzah has spoken out against corruption in the kingdom, and recognised failures to tackle the kingdom's economic difficulties.
3 min read
26 September, 2018
Jordan's Prince Hamzah has acknowledged problems of corruption [AFP]

The half-brother of King Abdullah spoke out against alleged corruption in Jordan and attacked the government's economic performance, in a tweet this week that touched on sensitive - but pertinent - political issues in the country.

Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein urged the government to act on graft in the kingdom, which he said could eventually plunge Jordan into an "abyss".

His Twitter comments follow serious unrest on the streets of Jordan last summer, when the government attempted to push through economic reforms to tackle budget deficits.

The planned tax rises and subsidy cuts proved to be hugely unpopular, due to the harm they would cause middle and working families.

Prince Hamzah said that the people should not pay for the government's failure to manage the economy, and brought up the sensitive issue of graft in the tweet.

"Perhaps the start must be correcting the failed management approach of the public sector and a serious attempt to combat rampant corruption, including accountability for the corrupt," the prince tweeted.

"Rebuilding trust between the state and its citizens, without repeatedly returning to people's pockets to rectify the accumulated mistakes, unless the intention is to push the country to abyss."

The prince occupies a delicate position in the royal family, and has occasionally spoken out on international events - although corruption is a subject usually avoided by royals in public.

Prince Hamzah was designated crown prince in 1999 but the position was rescinded in 2004 following a televised speech by the king. He serves as an officer in the country's military and has carried out royal duties, although in a less public capacity than before.

King Abdullah's son, Prince Hussein, will eventually succeed his father as ruler unless the monarch appoints another crown prince, or heir apparent.

This is due to the country's system of agnatic primogeniture, where the eldest son of the monarch inherits the throne, unless the king issues a royal decree appointing another heir.

In December, Prince Hamzah slammed President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem.

"What an exceptionally irresponsible and dangerous step by Mr Trump that will destroy any remaining US credibility as a broker in the Middle East Peace Process and deal a severe blow to any hope for a JUST and lasting peace #Jerusalem," he tweeted at the time.

Corruption is a major issue in Jordan, where the country has been hit by cuts in remittances following low oil prices and stalled growth in the private sector - in part due to wars in Iraq and Syria - which has hurt the living standards of many Jordanians.

Although viewed as one of the region's more stable countries, large protests and strikes were launched earlier this year following planned IMF-backed austerity measures.

Protesters called for the government to tackle endemic waste and corruption to plug the gap in the country's finances.

The unrest led to the a new prime minister being appointed, Omar al-Razzaz, who held talks with civil society leaders and promised to lessen the harm of austerity on ordinary Jordanians.

Gulf states also pledged a $2.5 billion aid package, to help Jordan weather the economic storm.

Despite this, the government is pushing through with a softer version of the tax law, with Razzaz urging parliament to pass the bill or risk irreversible harm to the country.

"If we don't come with a tax law we will face these dangers. It will cost us dearly," said Razzaz last week.

Follow Paul McLoughlin on Twitter: @PaullMcLoughlin