Decentralisation and governance in Jordan

Jordan’s country specific territorial reality is the result of its own political, social and economic history, described in Chapter 1. This section describes the territorial reality and constraints that have led to the current centralised state, and contrasts it with experiences of OECD countries.

A small country with great regional disparities

Jordan has 12 governorates, each headed by a governor appointed by the King through the Minister of the Interior. The governor and related bodies, who act as the executive organ for carrying out cabinet decisions at the subnational level, are essentially an extension of the central government, and are supervised by the Ministry of the Interior (MoI).2 The municipal system is composed of 100 municipalities and breaks down into four sub-categories to reflect their different size: governorate centres (11 plus the Greater Amman Municipality, GAM), district centres (with a population of over 15 000), caza centres (with a population of between 5 000 and 15 000) and a fourth category for all other municipalities (Ababsa, 2013). Mayors and municipal councils were previously directly elected (but not the municipal council, under the new law) and supervised by the Ministry of Municipality Affairs, except for the mayor of GAM who is appointed by the King. GAM and the Aqaba Special Economic Zone are managed independently, under the Prime Minister.

The sizes and populations of governorates and municipalities have strong disparities. Among governorates, populations range from almost 2.5 million in Amman to fewer than 90 000 in Tafilah (Jordan Department of Statistics, 2017). Half of Jordan’s population is concentrated within the Amman-Ruseifa-Zarqa conurbation (3 million out of 6.3 million inhabitants in 2011). Amman Jordan’s major city, is four times bigger than the second, Zarqa, and seven times larger than Irbid, the third city of the country (313 800 inhabitants in 2013).3 The country’s population density is 86 inhabitants per square kilometre,4 but 80% of the country has fewer than five inhabitants per km2. The entire population lives in an area of less than 10 000 km2, giving a true density ten times higher: over 650 inhabitants per km2. The northern governorates, with less desert areas, have densities of

over 300 inhabitants per square kilometre, this figure reaches 962 in Irbid. Kerak and Tafila are in the mountains and have suffered from population drift towards the capital; they have respective population densities of 68 and 39 inhabitants per km2. In the cities, population density reaches world records, with over 30 000 inhabitants per km2 in the poor areas of Amman and Zarqa (Figure 2.1) (Ababsa, 2013).

Figure 2.1. Jordan population density per governorate

Source: Ababsa (2013), Atlas on Jordan, http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/5021?lang=en.

These significant differences of population density underline a territorial and country specific reality in Jordan. For instance, there is a big contrast between the north-west country, highly populated with the south-eastern desert area almost unpopulated. Jordan’s Vision 2025 raises the need to promote decentralisation from a local development perspective to fight against unemployment and poverty to not only ensure public service delivery at the local level, but also to encourage local economic development (Figure 2.1).

Table 2.1. Challenges at the governorate level: GINI, unemployment and poverty in 2014

GINI

Poverty rate in %

Unemployment in %

Ajloun

0.306

25.6

12

Amman

0.387

11.4

10.9

Aqaba

0.312

19.2

16.6

Balqa

0.333

20.9

15

Irbid

0.330

15

12.5

Jerash

0.254

20.3

11.8

Karak

0.317

13.4

18.6

Ma’an

0.28

26.6

20.1

Madaba

0.272

15.1

17.9

Mafraq

0.296

19.2

11.3

Tafilah

0.262

17.2

20.7

Zarqa

0.319

14.1

12.9

Source: Inform (2015), Jordan 2025, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Amman, http://inform.gov.io/en-us/Bv-Date/Report-Details/ArticleId/247/Jordan-2025.

There is a large disparity of territorial organisations in OECD countries, There are around 138 000 general purpose subnational governments in OECD countries, which are distributed in one, two or three government layers (Tables 2.2 and 2.3). Jordan is considered a highly centralised country, with a two-tier subnational government system that is made of 12 governorates and 100 municipalities.

Box 2.1. Subnational government structure in OECD countries

The multi-level governance structure of countries varies considerably in the OECD, with 9 federal states and 25 unitary states. Among OECD member countries, only eight have three subnational government tiers: the regional/federated level, the intermediary level and the municipal level. There are 18 countries, such as the Netherlands, with two sub national tiers (regions and municipalities), and 8 countries have only one subnational tier.

Table 2.2. Number of subnational governments* in the OECD in 2015, with figures on

Jordan

2014-15

Municipal level

Intermediary level

Regional or state level

Total number of subnational governments

Federations and quasi

-federations

Australia

565

8

573

Austria

2 102

9

2 111

Belgium

589

10

6

605

Canada

4 014

13

4 027

Germany

11 116

402

16

11 534

Mexico

2 445

32

2 477

Spain

8 117

50

17

8 184

Switzerland

2 324

26

2 350

United States

35 879

3 031

50

38 960

Unitary countries

Chile

345

15

360

Czech Republic

6 253

14

6 267

Denmark

98

5

103

Estonia

213

213

Finland

317

1

318

France

36 681

101

27

36 809

Greece

325

13

338

Hungary

3 177

19

3 196

Iceland

74

74

Ireland

31

31

Israel

252

252

Italy

8 047

110

20

8 177

Japan

1 718

47

1 765

Korea

227

17

244

Latvia

119

119

Luxembourg

105

105

Netherlands

393

12

405

New Zealand**

67

11

78

Norway

428

18

446

Poland

2 478

380

16

2 874

Portugal***

308

2

310

Slovak Republic

2 927

8

2 935

Slovenia

212

212

Sweden

290

21

311

Turkey

1 394

81

1 475

United Kingdom

389

27

3

419

OECD35

130 005

4 111

514

134 630

Jordan

94

12

112

Notes: The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law. * Includes only subnational government with general competencies. “Netherlands: 403 municipalities as of 1 January 2014. *** The regional level in Portugal includes only two overseas regions: Madeira and Azores.

Source: OECD (2016a), Subnational governments in OECD countries: Key data (brochure), OECD, Paris, www.oecd.org/regional/regional-policy/.

Jordan’s political, historical and geographic reality (described in Chapter 1) shows it to be a unitary state with a tradition of strong central power. Its administrative culture and background are very close to some OECD countries, such as France and Hungary, where the power is mainly concentrated at the central level, but a meaningful presence on the ground is ensured through prefects or governors and deconcentrated agencies from line ministries. The institutional organisation in OECD countries varies widely across member countries, with a vast majority being unitary states as shown in Table 2.3.

Table 2.3. Institutional organisation in the OECD, and number of subnational layers

8 countries with only one level Municipalities

18 countries with two levels

States/Regions

Municipalities

8 countries with three levels

States/Regions Intermediary governments Municipalities

9 federations and quasi-federations

Australia

Austria

Canada

Mexico

Switzerland

Germany

Belgium

Spain*

United States

25 unitary countries

Estonia

Finland*

Ireland

Island

Israel

Luxemburg

Portugal*

Slovenia

Chile

Korea

Denmark

Greece

Hungary

Japan

Norway

New Zealand Netherlands Czech Republic Slovak Republic Sweden T urkey

France

Italy

Poland

United Kingdom*

Note: * Spain is a quasi-federal country. Finland and Portugal have part of autonomous regions in part of the country. There is an intermediate level in United Kingdom.

Source: OECD (2016b), OECD Regional statistics, OECD, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/region-data-en.

Middle East and North African (MENA) countries have a similar structure with regional and local level units. Although there are significant differences among big countries, such as Egypt and Algeria, and smaller countries, such as Jordan or Tunisia (Box 2.2).

Box 2.2. Territorial organisations in selected MENA Countries/Territories

Territories/

countries

Population, 2014, in millions

Regional level

Provincial Level

Local level

Algeria

39.9

48 provinces/wilayas, 160 districts/ constituencies (da’iras)

1,541 municipalities (communes)

Egypt

83.4

26 governorates, each divided into districts

217 towns + Luxor (with special status)

Jordan

7.5

12 governorates

100 municipalities

Lebanon

5

6 governorates (muhafazat), each (except

Beirut) divided into districts (aqdaya)

930 municipalities and villages

Libya

6.3

Morocco

33.5

12 regions

provinces and prefectures

municipalities

Palestinian Authority

4.4

14 governorates, 2

autonomous

provinces

74 municipalities, 368 villages councils

Syria

22

14 departments

107 cities, 248 small cities, 207 villages

Tunisia

11.1

24 governorates (wilayat), each divided into districts

350 municipalities

Note: Western Sahara excluded.

Source: Author based on Bergh (2010) and GOLD REPORT 2010, UCLG country profiles, Population data from UNDP Human Development Report 2015; Journal Officiel de la Republique Tunisienne (2016) “Decret gouvernemental”, www.legislation.tn/sites/default/files/news/tf20166003.pdf.

Although all MENA countries are unitary, territorial realities help to understand the different models and processes that each country is implementing to bring policies and public services closer to citizens. The next section of this chapter will provide a definition of decentralisation, stressing its differences with other models, such as deconcentration. This will be followed by an assessment of the evolution and current status of the decentralisation reform that Jordan under King Abdullah II, and his ambition to modernise Jordan while answering to citizens’ needs for greater participation.

 
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