By Tariq Alhomayed
This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 10/03/2011
There were rumors in Jordan that the Palace was planning to distribute financial donations to the poor, and that people were rushing to get their share. However, it transpired that the whole affair was a money-making scheme, whereby some people were offering to process forms filled in by the poor who hoped to receive these alleged donations, in return for a fee. Who is responsible for manipulating people's feelings like this?
Much of the responsibility lies with those who simplify and idealize the conditions and demands of the people, and depict revolutions as if they are the key to solutions, and the way for people to obtain their rights, portraying all Arab countries as being similar with regards to the suffering and misery present in them. Those primarily responsible for this are certain members of our cultural elite.
Will economic reform, for example, occur via government hand-outs, and would this lead to an immediate rise in one's personal income? Of course not! The first step of economic reform, anywhere, is to remove subsidies on goods, and anyone who seeks further clarification on this matter should contemplate Turkey's experience over the last ten years to understand that the country only reached its position today through hard work and perseverance. Some might ask: Does this mean that you are against political and economic reform? The answer is no, of course I am not against this, reform is something that all our countries need, and it is urgently needed in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Jordan, but are our regional countries all suffering from the same problems? The answer again is no, and here the blame lies on the intellectual dreamers who want to play on the feelings of the street.
Iraq went for nearly eight months without a government, so how can it be compared with Oman, the UAE, or Saudi Arabia? Furthermore, take the example of Egypt, the president of this presidential republic remained in power for 30 years and was attempting to bequeath power to his son, so how can this country be compared with Bahrain? Of course there is no comparison [in this regard], and the same applies to the demands for reform that have been raised in Bahrain, which are said to be legitimate, for what about the Shiite groups in the country who are calling for the ouster of the monarchy and the establishment of a Republic of Bahrain? This is something that is completely unacceptable! So how can it be said that the Gulf States and their varied problems are similar to the Republic of Yemen, which has been governed by a president who has been in power longer than any Gulf King or Emir?
Do we need to mention Libya, after what Gaddafi did, and continues to do, against his own people? Libya is a country that should only be comparable to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Qatar, in terms of its oil revenues, and today it stands below any other Arab country, even those which don't possess oil. Reform is urgent, because inflexibility and intransigence are the most prominent reasons for the ouster of regimes, and indeed the collapse of states. However, taking a shot in the dark, and ignoring the facts and realities of each state, is futile. They hypocrisy of the street represents a great danger to those governing a country, and unfortunately this is something that some intellectuals in the Arab world have been caught up in, especially those who have lent their names to political statements, whether these are Islamist statements or democratic statements.
I am saying this because the Gulf States in particular, and without exception, are now on the path to reform. Some of these states are moving quickly, whilst others more slowly, and others charting a course between these two extremes. However the Gulf States are not like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya or Yemen, and particularly not like Syria, which is another story altogether. This is the reality, and this is the logical assessment of the situation, but still some people seek to incite chaos, and this is something quite different.