Defending Jordan and Its King
Regarding the Sept. 20 opinion-page article "When the King's Away the Critics Play," Jordan has embarked on bold political and economic reforms while simultaneously supporting and sustaining a peace process aimed at achieving peace and economic prosperity for all in the region. The political reform Jordan launched in 1989 has seen the reintroduction of political parties, two successful rounds of free parliamentary elections, an evolution of the freest press in the Arab world, and a human rights record that is unparalleled in the region. The economic program referred to in the article has been applauded by the international community and has actually served to avert economic disaster for the country. It is being carried out simultaneously with a peace agenda that attempts to address the very social justice to which the authors refer. While it is understood that the real benefits of peace can only be felt once comprehensive peace is achieved, Jordan has taken one of the steps that need to be undertaken by various players if the region is to see a prosperous future at any point. The pace of peace with Israel, which the authors suggest is too fast for the Jordanian populace, is determined by the bilateral agreements signed between the two countries in accordance with the Treaty of Peace. The treaty was voted on and approved by elected representatives of the people - parliament.
The statement that His Majesty King Hussein has often "absented himself" abroad and that by one count he has spent only 45 days at home this year illustrates cynicism by the authors whilst failing to make a valid point. The inaccuracy of that figure aside - official records show that until Sept. 26 of this year, His Majesty was abroad for 92 days - is it not perfectly normal for a leader to travel abroad to promote the very interests of his country and people? A less cynical view than that of the authors would be that a leader's travels abroad are an indication that the country's political and democratic institutions are functioning properly and that the government is in a strong enough position to run the daily affairs of the country.
The authors' statement that the government "chose to force through 300 percent rises in the price of bread" is simply wrong. In fact, the price of bread was raised from 85 fils per kilogram to 180 fils per kilogram (approximately 200 and not 300 percent). More important, the article fails to mention that while the subsidy on the price of bread was removed - and there is no question that from an economic standpoint that is a sound decision - the government is providing cash subsidies for Jordanians to enable them to buy bread at the higher price. (While the price of bread is now 180 fils per kilogram, the government is actually offering Jordanians a cash subsidy calculated at a price of 250 fils per kilogram.) Providing Jordanians with cash subsidies to make up for the difference in bread prices means that tourists and foreigners will no longer benefit at Jordanian taxpayers' expense, and that the issue of smuggling subsidized wheat - which was adding to the budget deficit - is addressed.
Finally, the government debated in various forums the issue of bread prices over the span of 45 days and took the decision to lift the subsidy only after no viable alternatives were presented by the opposition.
Director, Jordan Information Bureau
Practice make perfect
Regarding the Sept. 20 editorial "What Makes a Teacher?" I agree with the author - practice does a teacher make.
California has long granted "clear" credentials only after completion of several 500-level classes and extensive student teaching during a "fifth year." The prospective teacher would spend about 36 weeks in the classroom with an experienced teacher - without all the responsibilities that go with being a teacher. A shrinking teacher supply and increasing teacher demand has encouraged California to try to accelerate the process and reward the successful candidates with a master's degree. This program and its graduates will, hopefully, succeed.
Ernest C. Pearson
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