By Mohammad Ben Hussein
AMMAN - Improving living
standards of Jordanians is top priority in the coming four years, said His
Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday in the Speech from the Throne inaugurating the
The King called for
productive cooperation between the legislative and executive authorities to
achieve political, economic and social reform plans.
"Our vision for Jordan's
future is clear and ambitious; its pillar is comprehensive reform and
modernisation - political, economic and social - for the sake of attaining the
ultimate goal: Improving citizens' standard of living and providing the means
for a decent life to every Jordanian family. This is the duty of all: Myself,
the government and you, the two Houses of Parliament," the King said in the
"This for us is a principle
to which we are committed in governance and administration, and not just a
slogan that some reiterate to achieve interim or momentary goals," said the
Monarch in his address to members of the Senate, the Lower House, as well as
the newly appointed government and citizens in the gallery.
The King urged the deputies
and the government to work to serve people’s interests away from “personal
interests, or interests that are related to district, party or narrow tribal
“The interest of the
homeland and its citizens supersedes all differences and considerations.
Hence, our ultimate goals should define the relationship between the two
authorities: Realising the biggest share of public interest, facing up to all
challenges, whether political, economic or social, providing a decent life for
citizens and realising comprehensive development that guarantees a bright
future for this homeland."
The 2003-2007 Parliament
traded accusations with governments, with each side blaming the other for slow
or lack of implementation of reform agendas.
In the Speech from the
Throne, the King criticised the previous Parliament as well as former
governments for impeding reform policies.
"I have noted that in years
past, the government has not implemented all the projects and plans required
of them, in spite of the availability of the necessary funding for these
projects. On the other hand, the legislature hampered the government's work by
delaying the endorsement of requisite legislation."
In order to turn the
Kingdom into an economic hub to attract investors, His Majesty said it was
important to increase the economic growth rate, enhance financial and monetary
stability, handle the debt problem, rationalise expenditure, boost Jordan's
self-reliance, and other economic measures.
With the economic situation
taking its toll on living standards of a large portion of the population, the
King declared next year will be the "year of housing" whereby citizens with
low income, including public servants and security personnel, will have access
to "decent housing".
He said the government will
work in the coming months on providing a social safety net and expand health
The King stressed the need
to increase the income of citizens to improve living conditions, noting it was
paramount to achieve "just distribution" of funds and improve health and
education services in rural areas, the badia and refugee camps.
In light of recent
incidents of mass food poisoning and water contamination in a number of towns,
the Monarch called on the government to "actively monitor" the quality of food
products, drugs and water.
To realise the envisaged
reforms, high transparency and accountability is key, the King said, telling
Parliament and the government they should work on passing a law concerning a
national ombudsman and pieces of legislation related to human rights, the
rights of women and children, the protection of youth and adolescents and to
encourage investment and tax reform.
The King singled out the
Landlords and Tenants Law that needs to be reviewed to "take into
consideration the realisation of social security, justice and the interests of
all, whether they are landlords or tenants".
The controversial law,
scheduled to go into effect in 2010, is seen by many as unfair to a large
sector of the society as it will empower landlords to raise rents according to
On political reform, the
King said the country needs to instil awareness of a democratic culture, and
see the emergence of political parties that are loyal to the country rather
than being servants of external agendas.
"This demands entrenchment
of the principles of justice, equality and equal opportunity on the basis of
merit, rooting these principles and concepts in our national culture and
transforming them from the realm of mere talk into the reality of work, away
from doubting and posturing.”
The King also pledged that
the media would be free to exercise its rights to "uncover truth", saying he
was against sending “a journalist to prison for a difference in opinion on a
public issue, as long as this opinion does not entail abusing the rights of
others, their freedoms, honour or dignity".
On regional issues, the
King stressed the need for the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples to unite in order
to reach their goals. He also sent Israel a clear message that it will not
achieve peace without the complete withdrawal from Arab lands and abide by
"We emphatically tell
Israel that ending the occupation of Arab and Palestinian lands, withdrawing
therefrom and implementing legitimate international resolutions are the only
way to realise just, permanent and comprehensive peace."