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Heeding King’s call, measures taken to tackle ‘gharimat’ issue as donations pour in

5,672 indebted women, wanted by judicial authorities, to benefit from initiative

By JT - Mar 24,2019 - Last updated at Mar 24,2019

Prime Minister chairs a meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Rajai Muasher, Central Bank of Jordan Governor Ziad Fariz and a number of ministers and stakeholders on Saturday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — In accordance with His Majesty King Abdullah’s directives, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz chaired a meeting on Saturday attended by Deputy Prime Minister Rajai Muasher, Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) Governor Ziad Fariz and a number of ministers and stakeholders to tackle the issue of “gharimat”, or indebted women. 

The meeting tackled the reasons leading to the escalation of the gharimat issue, ways to avoid the reoccurrence of the phenomenon as well as ways to help those affected, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. 

The King on Friday, during a call-in with Jordan Television’s "Yised Sabahak", saluted all Jordanian mothers on the occasion of Mother’s Day, calling for a joint national effort to support gharimat, indebted Jordanian women unable to pay back loans they had taken to support their families

“When we talk about mothers, we talk about the patience and endless giving that Jordanian mothers exemplify. They deserve all our love and respect,” His Majesty said in the phone call.

The King said Jordan is a country of solidarity, and “we must all stand with our daughters and sisters”. 

His Majesty added that he will be the first to support the national effort to alleviate gharimat’s debts.

He also urged for coordination among the government, the CBJ and financing institutions to overcome the difficulties facing these women and prevent their reoccurrence.

During Saturday’s meeting at the Prime Ministry, the participants agreed on the definition of “gharim” (indebted person) as “someone whose financial resources were dried up by debt and can no longer repay these debts”. 

Razzaz instructed that all financial companies be subject to supervision by the CBJ, to prevent excessive hikes in interest rates and profits on loans as well as amending pieces of legislation that govern loaning to protect clients from drowning in debt, according to Petra. 

The discussions stressed on the importance of validating the financial solvency of borrowers and evaluating their ability to repay debts, whereby loan repayments must not exceed 30 per cent of the borrower’s income. 

Talks also affirmed the need for focusing on financing income-generating projects rather than loans for consumption, according to Petra.

Razzaz affirmed the importance of creating repayment schedules in accordance with the capabilities of borrowers, as well as enhancing women’s access to financial services.

 

‘Gharimat’ issue

 

The gharimat issue involves several stakeholders, including unsupervised financing companies, shops and deferred-payment sales companies, the participants in the meeting said, noting that while the number of gharimat in prisons and rehabilitation centres was reported to be very low; many women are currently being pursued by the law for not paying their debts, with some being legally charged the and their cases reaching the judicial execution phase. 

Representatives from microfinance companies attending the meeting said they were directed “not to take any legal action that could result in prison time”, Petra added. 

Talks also tackled the CBJ’s efforts in monitoring and supervising the microfinance sector and the instructions that govern the operation of these institutions, most notably those concerned with consumer protection for the microfinance sector, with the CBJ stressing the significance of the microfinance sector as it provides financing to a large portion of Jordanians with limited income. 

Within the framework of expanding CBJ’s supervision blanket, a report is being prepared on non-banking financing companies, excluding microfinance companies, attendees said. 

As such the CBJ will be either amending the micro-finance institutions’ (MFI) by-law or creating a new one to encompass various non-banking financing institutions in CBJ’s supervision, they added. 

In 2017, the CBJ founded a department responsible for the protection of financial services consumers, especially the beneficiaries of the microfinance sector, according to Petra. 

There are nine CBJ-licensed microfinance institutions in Jordan, facilitating around JD260 million in loans to some 470,000 clients, more than 75 per cent of which are women, according to Petra.

More so, Razzaz added that the portfolio-at-risk (PAR) and bad debt ratios do not exceed 2 per cent.

Microfinance operations in Jordan have a particular success rate, as microfinance institutions have made a record track of success stories when it comes to tackling poverty-pockets in various parts of Jordan, Petra added.

These institutions were able to better the quality of life and economic status of their clientele while enabling them to be productive members of society.

 

Measures

 

The CBJ, through its various monitory instruments, will continue to ensure the microfinance sector’s compliance with its finance benchmark standards and regulations, especially when it comes to issuing credit for microfinance institutions clients, in order to protect borrowers from the dangers of predatory banking practices, stakeholders decided at the meeting.

Furthermore, CBJ will set up a low-cost finance programme for MFIs to lower the costs of borrowing for microfinance clients, it was agreed during the talks.

Only companies and MFI that meet the set qualifications are eligible to benefit from the CBJ funding programme, they agreed.

In accordance to His Majesty’s Royal Directives, the first batch of payments will be allocated to paying off debts for the gharimat women whose debts do not exceed JD1,000; are financially insolvent and whoes individual and household properties are not enough to pay off the debt, stakeholders agreed.

Benefitting from the payments would be a one-time case, and repeat cases will not be covered, the panel said, adding that for women to be eligible for the first stage, their case must not be tied to any fraudulent or criminal cases and their household’s overall monthly income must not exceed JD600.

The meeting also addressed the need for launching awareness-raising campaigns to enlighten borrowers on their own responsibilities and the consequences of failing to make payments, as well as to encourage borrowers to direct such loans towards more productive endeavours.

Notably, there are 5,672 indebted women wanted by judicial authorities whose loans do not exceed JD1,000 each.

No more than 30 women are currently incarcerated for unpaid debts, according to Petra.

 

Heeding national call

 

In implementation of His Majesty’s initiative, Awqaf Minister Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal, who is also chairman of the Zakat Fund, directed the fund’s administration to form a team to follow up on the Royal Initiative, Petra reported.

The fund called on companies and individuals willing to donate to the initiative to contact its hotline on 06/5686713, 0797616939, 0790858920 and 0797594574. 

Heeding King Abdullah’s national call to support gharimat, various public, private and civil community institutions have started extending donations.

Senate President Faisal Fayez announced that the Chamber will donate JD10,000, Amman Mayor Yousef Shawarbeh announced that the Greater Amman Municipality extended a JD100,000 donation while the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company also donated JD100,000. 

The Public Security Department decided to reconsider some cases of gharimat and contribute to repaying their debts, while the Palestinian Affairs Department and camp services committees decided to donate JD7,000 and the Housing Bank for Trade and Finance donated JD50,000.

The Jordan Chamber of Commerce extended JD15,000 and the Aqaba Chamber of Commerce extended JD5,000, while the Jordan Chamber of Industry donated JD25,000.

Zain Jordan donated JD50,000 for the cause while Umniah Mobile Company extended JD10,000, according to Petra.

President of the Zarqa Chamber of Industry Fares Hammoudeh announced that the chamber will contribute to the initiative through empowering indebted women and employing them in the industrial sector, so as to provide them with decent income.

Hammoudeh noted that the chamber will contact the Zakat Fund to receive data about the gharimat to train them and connect them with industrial companies and private sector companies and ensure they receive a permanent income for them and their families, Petra reported. 

The Zakat Fund board of directors on Friday decided to allocate JD250,000 to paying off gharimat’s debts.  

Zakat Fund Director General Abed Smeirat said that the total donations until 1pm of Saturday exceeded JD2.4 million, noting that Abul Bassal is scheduled to hold a press conference to announce the results of the campaign, the amount collected and conditions of beneficiary gharimat.

Meanwhile, the Income and Sales Tax Department said that donations to the campaign will be deducted from donators’ income when calculating their annual income tax. 

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