The Council of Ministers

Jordan Table of Contents

The cabinet, consisting of the prime minister and the other ministers, is the top executive arm of the state. Its members serve at the pleasure of the king, but the Constitution requires every new cabinet to present its statement of programs and policies to the House of Representatives for approval by a two-thirds vote of the members of that house. If the house passes a vote of no confidence, the cabinet must resign.

Traditionally, prime ministers have been recruited from families that have loyally served the Hashimites for many years. Zaid ar Rifai, who was prime minister from 1985 to 1989, is the son of a prominent Transjordanian politician who had served as prime minister to Hussein's grandfather. His successors, Ash Sharif Zaid ibn Shakir (April-November 1989) and Mudar Badran (designated prime minister in November 1989) have each worked with the king in a variety of political capacities. Significantly, both men served as chief minister of the royal court prior to becoming prime minister.

In September 1989, the cabinet included ministers responsible for the following portfolios: agriculture; communications; culture and information; defense; education; energy and mineral resources; finance and customs; foreign affairs; health; higher education; tourism and antiquities; interior; justice; labor and social development; municipal, rural, and environmental affairs; planning; religious affairs and holy places; supply; trade and industry; transportation; and youth. In 1989 the government also was served by a minister of state for prime ministerial affairs.

In 1986 the bureaucracy employed 109,523 Jordanians, making the government the principal employer in society. Selection generally was based upon merit, although patronage and nepotism remained fairly widespread. The government trained civil servants at a school of public administration in Amman, Jordan's capital. A majority of them were Palestinians who had opted for Jordanian citizenship; at the higher levels of the administrative hierarchy, however, Transjordanians probably outnumbered Palestinians. Allegiance to the monarchy and the Constitution remained an important factor in government service. In the aftermath of the Az Zarka affair in 1957 and the civil war of 1970 and 1971, numerous Palestinian civil servants were dismissed because of suspected disloyalty to the throne.

From the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967 until Hussein relinquished Jordan's claim to sovereignty of the territory in July 1988, Amman continued to pay salaries and pensions to serving and retired West Bank municipal government employees. During this period, the West Bank came under the jurisdiction initially of the Bureau of Occupied Homeland Affairs, attached to the prime minister's office and headed by a cabinet-level minister; later this office became the Ministry of Occupied Territories. In addition to paying salaries, it was responsible for channeling Jordan's loans and development funds to Palestinian concerns in the West Bank. Following the decision at the Baghdad Summit meeting in November 1978 to set up a special fund for development and other projects in the Israeli-occupied territories, this ministry worked jointly with the PLO in administering aid funds for Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. By 1988, when Jordan terminated payments, more than 20,000 West Bank Palestinians were estimated to be receiving salaries from the Jordanian government. All of these employees were granted retirement benefits or severance pay according to the number of years they had been municipal employees.

More about the Government and Politics of Jordan.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress