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Administrative Evolution

p. 226-229

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1The administrative hierarchy of liwa divided into nahiya came down from the Ottoman Empire, with the higher level of governorate (muhafaza) added in the twentieth century, while nahiya were gradually transformed into qada (subdistricts). In the sixteenth century, the most populated administrative entity in the territory of modern Jordan was the liwa of Ajlun, under the vilaya of Damascus, divided into several nahiya (Kura, Ajlun, Banu Alwan, Banu al-A’sar, Banu Juhma and Banu Kinana), to the south of which lay the nahiya of Salt, Kerak, Jabal al-Kerak and Shawbak (fig. IV.13 and VI.15). During the Tanzimat, two qada were created in Ajlun (administered by the mutasarrifiyya of Hawran) and Salt, then in 1892 qada were created in Kerak, Tafila and Ma‘an (administered by the mutasarifiyya of Balqa’). In 1895 the mutasarrifiyya of Kerak was formed, and included the qada of Salt (which was detached from Hawran) as well as the qada of Tafila and Ma‘an (Rogan 2002).

2In the early twentieth century, the term sanjak replaced those of vilaya and mutasarrifiyya. The Transjordanian territory came under the sanjak of Hawran and the sanjak of Ma‘an (fig. IV.17).

3Governorates come under the Ministry of the Interior. Until 1985, Jordan had five governorates: Irbid, Amman, Balqa, Kerak and Ma‘an, separated by the wadi Zarqa (between Irbid and Balqa) and the wadi Mujib (between Amman and Kerak) (fig. V.7). Amman and Irbid were the two main governorates in terms of population size and economy. Yet governorate divisions reflected political rather than economic considerations (Doan 1992). In 1985 three new governorates were created by dividing up those already in existence (fig. V.8). Amman governorate was split into Amman (with one million inhabitants) and Zarqa (425,000); Irbid governorate was split into Irbid (632,000) and Mafraq (93,000); and Kerak governorate was split into Kerak (112,000) and Tafila (37,000). However, whereas Zarqa was heavily urbanised and able to attract investments for industry and services, and Mafraq was strategically located on the road to Syria (with the market town of Ramtha) and Iraq, Tafila - with only four districts with over 2,000 inhabitants and only 6.5% of the country’s industry (compared to 10% in Mafraq and 16% in Zarqa in 1985) - badly needed state and private investments (Doan 1992) (fig. V.9).

4In 1994, new divisions were introduced with the creation of the four governorates of Madaba (with its booming agriculture and industry), Jerash (focussed on the development of tourism in its ancient city), Ajlun (for the development of tourism in its nature reserve) and Aqaba, the country’s only port, in full economic boom since the 1980s and the decline of Lebanese ports (fig. V.10). Since the 1994 reform and the king’s speech in 2002, the role of governorates has been strengthened for the purposes of decentralisation. Their budgets have been increased, with priority given to security.

5The limits of Jordan’s administrative divisions have gone through three major changes. The first was the integration of the West Bank between 1949 and 1988. From the 2000s, during the period of neoliberal privatization and attraction of foreign capital, the existing administrative divisions (governorate, district and sub-district) were progressively phased out and replaced by Special Economic Zones. The best example is the Aqaba Economic Zone, which comes directly under the Prime Minister’s Office and functions as an extraterritorial entity. The third change occurred in 2001 in the context of democratic opening-up; the amalgamation of municipalities brought their number down from 328 to 99, and gradually endowed them with new powers and their own budgets. In the autumn of 2011, this process was reversed and more than one hundred municipalities were created under pressure from the public (see Chapter 9).

Figure V.7 — Administrative divisions in 1975.

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Figure V.8 — Administrative divisions in 1985.

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Figure V.9 — Administrative divisions in 1994.

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Figure V.10 — Administrative divisions in 2004.

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