Two wrongs do not make a right! The government is still unable to come up with a workable high-tech solution to deal with the inefficiencies of its subsidy issue. Instead, all one hears is talk about the government’s intent to come up with smart cards to make the subsidies more efficient. Meanwhile, the self-admitted deficiencies continue, while the government imposes more taxes upon citizens, thus passing on the burden of its inadequacy to the citizens.
As ministerial Cabinets go through the revolving door of power, one minister after another spouts the promise that the government will move to offering direct subsidies in order to avoid wastefulness. This has been the broken record (which was initially suggested by the World Bank, based on its experience elsewhere) we have been heard for the past decade. Yet, no real movement towards addressing the issue seems to have happened while the world is dealing with even worse problems.
For example, in Estonia, a country that only gained independence in 1991, by pushing buttons on a mobile phone, one can: pay the parking meter, toll and groceries; use it as a passport for travel across borders; have the medical records shared by more than one hospital in case of an emergency; shell out tax payments; apply for a mortgage or a loan and pay towards it, and almost everything else. And because Estonia does have oil, it uses shale sand to produce 93 per cent of its energy needs. This is a country that 21 years ago was under occupation.
Smartphones are going into areas where no one has gone before. A Samsung smartphone once tapped against a quarter-size sticker that is placed on a spice container can tell not only the spice that is in the container but also inform the holder through Google search of all the recipes in which the spice is used.
The stickers are programmable tags, pieces made of paper or plastic which are sold for a few bucks, and can communicate with gadgets via a short-range radio technology (near field communication, or NFC). Thus, one can become an instant chef with the tap of a mobile on a jar.
An example of how invasive the technology is comes from a new iPhone application called Highlight, which can enable someone to know the names and profiles of people in a crowded room without having ever met them before. One can strike conversations with like-minded people whom he/she never met before and discuss matters of mutual concern.
Even in Jordan one can now read books on Kindle and download movies by pushing a few buttons. Gone are the days when book importers charged shipping plus 40 per cent extra of the value of the book, and the Customs Department cannot charge customs duties on imported films because it does not know it have been bought on one’s smartphone.
In other words, the technology is out there to do almost anything, never mind a simple smart card which would enable the government to better target its subsidy schemes. Yet, instead of tapping into smartphone technologies and the myriad of solutions out there, the government complains about the ineffectiveness of its subsidy schemes and then goes into price and tax hikes, as if all citizens were at fault.
Isn’t it more reasonable to find a solution in this tech savvy country than making citizens pay for the government’s incompetence, which places a burden on the economy without actually solving the subsidy inefficiency?
Could it be that outgoing ministers do not pass on handover notes or files to their successors to inform them at least of their achievements and ongoing efforts? Where is the e-government initiative that we started years ago? JordanTimes, 17/7/2012