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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
02AMMAN5692
2002-10-02 14:57:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

MINOR CABINET RESHUFFLE UNLIKELY TO RESULT IN ANY

Tags:   PREL  ECON  EINV  EAGR  PINR  JO 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 005692 

SIPDIS

USTR FOR NED SAUMS
CAIRO ALSO FOR FAS ASIF CHAUDRY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2012
TAGS: PREL ECON EINV EAGR PINR JO
SUBJECT: MINOR CABINET RESHUFFLE UNLIKELY TO RESULT IN ANY
POLICY CHANGES


Classified By: AMBASSADOR EDWARD W. GNEHM FOR REASONS 1.5 (b) AND (d)

-------
SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) The Palace announced a minor Cabinet reshuffle on
September 26 involving five portfolios. Amman had been rife
with rumors of a reshuffle since the King's August 15
announcement that elections were postponed until the Spring.
In recent conversations with the Ambassador, several young,
progressive Cabinet members--including Bassam Awadullah,
Fawwaz Zo'bi, and Saleh Bashir--spoke heatedly about what
they perceived as the real reason for the reshuffle--an
attempt by the PM to undermine them and their reform efforts.
While some outgoing ministers may be on the outs with the
Prime Minister, several will likely be re-appointed to other
positions within the government. The Cabinet reshuffle
portends no major policy change. End Summary.



--------------------------


CABINET RESHUFFLE: MOSTLY ECONOMIC PORTFOLIOS


--------------------------





2. (C) King Abdullah and Prime Minister Ragheb instituted a
minor Cabinet reshuffle on September 26. The following are
the new ministers:

Minister of National Economy: Samer Tawil (former Secretary
General of the Ministry of Trade and Industry), replacing Dr.
Muhammad Halaiqa.

Minister of Social Development: Dr. Ruwaida Ma'ita (former
President of the al-Hashimiyeh University), replacing Dr.
Tammam al-Ghoul.

Minister of Health: Dr. Walid al-Ma'ani (former Minister of
Higher Education), replacing Dr. Faleh al-Nasser.

Minister of Higher Education: Mohammad Hamdan (former
Secretary General of the Higher Council for Science and

SIPDIS
Technology), replacing Dr. Waleed al-Maani (who moved to the
health ministry).

Minister of Agriculture: Trad al-Fayez (former Senate
member), replacing Dr. Muhammad Duwairi.



3. (C) The Cabinet reshuffle had been rumored since the
King's August 15 announcement that elections would be
postponed until Spring. The most important portfolio that
changed hands was likely the Ministry of National Economy,
whose main responsibility has been to deal with investment
issues. The Prime Minister replaced old hand Mohammad
Halaiqa, who had shepherded Jordan's accession to the WTO and
FTA negotiations with the United States. His influence and
effectiveness had declined over the past year, probably
because of personality conflicts with Abul Ragheb. His
replacement, Samer Tawil, is personally close to the Prime
Minister, but he does not enjoy particularly close
relationships with other members of the economic team --
including trade minister Saleh Bashir, for whom he worked as
deputy in the Ministry of Industry and Trade -- or with the
King. Tawil, an accountant and businessman, is well know to

the embassy as a competent problem-solver. He has the same
pro-reform inclinations as Halaiqa, but he does not have
Halaiqa's stature in the community. It remains to be seen if
Tawil will be more effective than his predecessor Halaiqa in
addressing investment climate concerns.



4. (C) In a private conversation with the Ambassador before
the reshuffle was announced, Minister of Planning Bassam
Awadullah mentioned increasing friction between Halaiqa and
the PM. According to Awadullah, the PM had purposefully
marginalized Halaiqa and Halaiqa had become passive in
meetings of the Council of Ministers. Awadullah told the
Ambassador that the King favors Halaiqa and will probably
re-appoint him to another government position. Awadullah
also predicted a similar reassignment for Tammam al-Ghoul,
the former Minister of Social Development, who despite her
ousting during the recent shuffle was still considered
"solid" by both the Cabinet and the King. Her replacement at
the Ministry of Social Development, Ruwaida Ma'ita, is
well-connected, but also well respected in the academic
community as a serious professional.



--------------------------

--
RESHUFFLE REFLECTS INTERNAL POLITICS IN CABINET


--------------------------

--



5. (C) While the Cabinet reshuffle may not lead to any major
policy changes, it has underscored the division in the
Cabinet between the ambitious, young reformers (who tend to
be close to King Abdullah), and those members who favor a
more cautious, gradual approach to reform. PM Abul Ragheb
leads the latter, while Halaiqa was seen as a leader of the
former. In discussions over the past two weeks, several
Cabinet members complained to the Ambassador that the PM's
real motive for the Cabinet reshuffle was to undermine the
influence of the young reformers. Good sources report that
initially the PM tried to drop Awadullah from the government
but was told firmly by the Palace that that would not happen.
The PM then focused on Saleh Bashir. Bassam Awadullah told
the Ambassador that he lobbied the King directly for Bashir
to remain and the King agreed (reversing his earlier
decision). Bashir told the Ambassador that the PM had
offered him Halaiqa's position as the Minister of National
Economy. Bashir refused, saying he preferred to stay where
he was or return to the private sector rather than go to a
position, where he had seen Halaiqa marginalized. Tawil, who
now had no job, was given Halaiqa's position.


6. (C) While the King checked the PM's ability to cleanse the
Cabinet of progressives, the PM has replaced Halaiqa with
fiscally-conservative Minister of Finance Michel Marto as the
Cabinet's chair of the Economic and National Development
Committee. This is a blow to progressive Cabinet members,
whose initiatives and reform agendas clash with the mandate
of the fiscally-conservative Marto. For example, Zo'bi on
several occasions has charged that Marto and the PM are
opposing his efforts to liberalize the IT sector. According
to Zo'bi, the PM had recently warned him not to directly
lobby the King in favor of broad band. However, following
the King's strong endorsement of the IT sector--seen this
week by his high-profile involvement with the Information and
Communications Technology Forum--the PM called Zo'bi to
congratulate him on his efforts at the conference and to
express his desire to discuss the broad band issue. Perhaps,
said Zobi, the PM's political instincts will help turn the
PM's conservative attitude on the IT sector.



7. (C) Despite the larger internal politics at play with the
reshuffle, we believe that one of the PM's motives for the
reshuffle was to get rid of several ineffectual ministers
(some would even put Bashir, who has yet to be identified
with a major policy initiative, into this category). We are
also hopeful that the changes at the Health and Agriculture
Ministries will put more effective individuals in charge of
these politically sensitive portfolios. Dr. Waleed Maani has
some prior business experience in the health field. This is
in contrast to his predecessor, who tended to take populist
positions on IPR and drug pricing issues. Dr. Faleh
al-Nasser had also been blocked by the massive health
ministry bureaucracy in making badly needed reforms in the
sclerotic ministry.



8. (C) Trad Fayez, an ex-diplomat, replaces an agricultural
scientist at the agriculture ministry. Despite an apparent
personal lack of agriculture experience, Fayez's family is
very involved in Jordan Valley farming. We understand his
replacement of the ineffectual Dr. Duwairi signals a
commitment by the King and government to implement tough new
agriculture reforms under a new national agriculture strategy
that will be announced later this month (septel).



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





9. (C) The tension between the younger and more progressive
ministers, those eager for change, and the more conservative
PM and other ministers has been on the rise. The PM saw the
reshuffle as a chance to reduce the influence of the younger
progressives but he was ultimately checked by the King, whose
affinity lies with this younger group. That being said, for
the moment, the PM and the conservatives seem to have the
upper hand. The King and the government are focused on
regional difficulties they expect to face in the months ahead
-- both in Iraq and Palestine. Their eye is on elections in
the Spring. We may, therefore, see a hiatus in the economic
reform process to which the King, and we believe even the
Prime Minister, are committed. While there may be few, if
any, major new reform initiatives over the coming months, we
do not expect backtracking on reforms already made or in the
works.



10. (U) Bios on the new ministers will follow in septel.
GNEHM