AMMAN — The government will begin disbursing direct cash support to mitigate the effect of lifting fuel subsidies on Sunday, Finance Minister Suleiman Hafez said Friday.

Hafez said private sector workers and the unemployed will start receiving the payment as of Sunday, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

He added that the ministry will send SMSs to the 33,750 beneficiaries whose applications were accepted to head to the Housing Bank branches to collect the money.

Hafez noted that public sector employees, civil and military retirees, Social Security Corporation pensioners and beneficiaries of the National Aid Fund will receive the first payment through their respective ministries or public agencies before the end of this month.

On Thursday, the finance ministry’s departments around the Kingdom began receiving citizens’ applications manually and online (cfs.gov.jo) to obtain the cash support.

In recent remarks, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said the new subsidy regime would deliver direct cash support to low- and medium-income Jordanians as each individual of a household that consists of six members or less and whose income is less than JD800 a month or JD10,000 a year will receive JD70 in compensation for the hike in prices.

Meanwhile, the minister of industry and trade said the government’s decision to reduce the price of subsidised flour by JD20 per tonne is meant to maintain the price of Arabic bread at JD0.16 per kilo to ease the burden on citizens, according to a senior official.

Minister of Industry and Trade and Hatem Halawani on Friday explained that reducing the price of flour had cost the Treasury around JD12.18 million a year, with the flour subsidies reaching JD123 million during the first nine months of this year.

He underlined that the ministry will impose strict controls on all the Kingdom’s bakeries to ensure they abide by the fixed prices and provide people with bread at all times, Petra reported.

Two types of flour are used in bakeries: mowahhad (unified) and zero flour.

The government subsidises unified flour, which is used to make bread, but not zero flour, which is used in other products such as sweets and cakes.

Bakeries Owners’ Association President Abdul Ilah Hamawi announced earlier that the syndicate will examine the mechanism of calculating the difference in the prices of flour and its feasibility, noting that it will take a decision on Sunday.

“The association will raise the prices of all bread, except Arabic bread, by reasonable rates and in a way that does not affect citizens’ purchasing power as a result of the increase in prices of zero flour and fuel,” Hamawi said.

The ministry used to sell the subsidised flour to bakeries at JD56 per tonne before the decision to reduce its price.

In addition, it also used to provide bakeries with 48,000 tonnes of unified flour to ensure they sell bread at JD0.16 per kilo.

Jordan’s 2,000 bakeries need around 650,000 tonnes of unified four annually, reported Petra.

Following the government’s decision to liberalise the prices of fuel products, Jordan Chamber of Commerce Chairman Nael Kabariti expressed the trade sector’s “reservations” over the move, calling on the government to resort to other alternatives to address the budget deficit.

Kabariti urged the government to rescind the decision “immediately” in order to safeguard the Kingdom’s security and stability, stressing that the decision was “wrong and rushed” and that it could have been taken gradually after extensive studies taking into account the social, economic and political ramifications of such a move, according to Petra.

Jordan Chamber of Industry Chairman Ayman Hatahet said the industrial sector “anxiously followed” the events during the last few days.

Hatahet noted that the chamber will ask workers in the sector to find other alternatives to cover the increase in costs due to the fuel price hikes, without raising prices, Petra reported.

He added that the government should ease the burdens on citizens, while Jordanians should understand the critical stage the country is going through.