SUNY/Jordan Launches Its Series of "Public Policy Dialogues"
SUNY/CID NEWS STORIES 2006
The State University of New York in Jordan's Legislative Strengthening Program (LSP) hosted 60 participants at its first Public Policy Dialogue at the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman, Jordan on February 20, 2006. The dialogue had as its theme the hot-button issue "Privatization in Jordan: Retrospectives and Perspectives." Its goal was to provide a forum in which the business and civil society communities had the opportunity to discuss privatization initiatives in Jordan openly with Members of Parliament.
The panel was composed of three distinguished speakers: Professor Abdellatif Arabiet, head of the Islamic Action Front and Member of the Jordanian Parliament, Mrs. Dina Dabbas, working with the Executive Commission of Privatization, and Professor Bashir Al Zu'bi, Economics Professor at the University of Jordan kicked off the dialogue with provocative and informative presentations. They touched on such controversial issues as transparency in the use of privatization initiatives' monetary gains; whether foreign interests should be served; use of these proceeds - whether for strengthening the infrastructure of the privatized companies with a view towards increased efficiencies; and the need for continual monitoring of the process.
The lively discussion that followed brought in MPs from both the lower and upper houses of parliament, university professors, reporters, academics from institutes, members of commissions and councils, activists from women's NGOs, staff from Chamber of Commerce and consultants from the UNDP. Participants explored in further detail the economic, political, media, and social ramifications of Jordan's privatization law, in effect since 2000.
This first LSP Public Policy Dialogue succeeded in striking a chord among key groups in Jordanian society. UNDP Consultant Dr. Abdullah Zu'bi remarked that the dialogue was "great…it opened up a lot of old wounds again, but that is good in itself." Former Secretary General of the Jordanian Parliament Dr. Mohammed Masalha (moderator of the panel) added that "there were pros to privatization and there were also cons, but that is life." President of the Arab Center for Democracy and Peace Studies Mr. Fakhry Abu Shakra observed that the event "was very well done- in fact; it was the best organized event I have been to in a long, long time."
SUNY/Jordan is publishing a pamphlet of the proceedings.
In July, 2005, SUNY/CID established a two-year legislative strengthening program, under a $7.2 million contract from USAID, to assist the Jordanian Parliament. SUNY professionals are working closely with Jordanian MPs and staffers to strengthen the effectiveness, transparency, accountability, and responsiveness of the legislative process in Jordan. The project also aims to increase public outreach by the Jordanian parliament.