Jordanian Prime Minister Reshuffles Cabinet
The King of Jordan recently issued a decree to reshuffle Prime Minister Mulki’s Cabinet, at the PM’s request. With the country facing an economic and security crisis, Mulki adjusted his selection of advisors in order to eliminate the previous internal disputes. The interior minister, foreign minister, education minister, youth minister, and minister of legal affairs were replaced, as well as the portfolio of cabinet affairs. The government’s statement does not provide explanations for each minister’s replacement. Nevertheless, the overarching purpose of the reshuffle was internal cohesion, swearing in ministers who are already popular in government rather than up-and-coming specialists in each department. However, analysts speculate that these new ministers signify a surface change rather than a shift in government policy. For example, political analyst Omar Kollab criticized Mulki’s choice of “political and social heavyweights” instead of “competent and untraditional economists.”
Salameh Hammad, the former interior minister, faced growing distrust from both the public and the government for perceived mishandling of security events. In November, the Jordanian military had shot and killed three American special forces at a Jordanian air base in a case of miscommunication. A month later, he almost faced a vote of no-confidence in the parliament for his response to an attack by the Islamic State.
Rising fears of retaliation as Jordan increases its involvement against ISIS with airstrikes culminated in Hammad’s replacement. The new interior minister, Ghaleb Zu’bi, has previously held both interior and justice minister positions in earlier cabinets. The interior minister position is one of the more powerful and visible of the departments; its duties range from public order to development projects.
Despite Jordan’s economic stress, Omar Malhas, the finance minister, remained in the Cabinet. Malhas oversees an International Monetary Fund program
that requires Jordan to cut its public debt by 17 percent in order to receive $723 million to implement internal reforms. The reforms purport to stabilize Jordan’s economy, which faces strain from an influx of refugees, high unemployment, and slow economic growth, which demands heavy foreign aid. The programs aim to improve the structural base of the economy, strive to increase youth and women participation in the labor force, work to encourage business investment, and promote energy sustainability. The program, however, is unpopular because the reduction in debt would be met by raising taxes and cutting subsidies, further straining the circumstances of the growing number of poor and unemployed.