A new Atlantic Council issue brief, “Stability through Change: Toward a New Political Economy in Jordan,” contends that Jordan could be a promising experiment with economic and political reform in a relatively stable environment, and a model for reform in Arab transition countries.
Issue brief author Faysal Itani, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, argues that King Abdullah ought to move forward transforming Jordan’s institutions and reimagining its relationship with its citizens, despite the associated political risks. The report’s central conclusion is that economic change has undermined Jordan’s old social contract. To ensure its long-term survival in a new economy, the monarchy must build a state of laws and citizens that extends meaningful political and economic participation to its historic social base. Itani warns that if Jordan does not tackle this issue head-on, it runs the risk of serious civil unrest in the future.
Jordan’s political economy has changed profoundly in the past twenty years, exerting pressure on the foundations of regime stability. The state is seen as retreating from many citizens’ economic lives, shrinking its circle of privilege and patronage, and leaving the population to find for itself in a dysfunctional economy. Add to this the demands of a growing Syrian refugee population that also threatens the monarchy’s stability and alienates its traditional power base.
The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East brings North American and European voices together with experts from the Middle East, fostering a policy relevant dialogue about the future of the region at a historic moment of political transformation. The Hariri Center provides objective analysis and innovative policy recommendations regarding political, economic, and social change in the Arab countries, and creates communities of influence around critical issues.