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Lawmakers debate budget bill, recommend curbed public spending

By JT - Jan 13,2020 - Last updated at Jan 13,2020

AMMAN — The Lower House on Sunday began its deliberations over the draft 2020 state budget law and the budgets of independent public institutions.

The session convened with a presentation of the House Financial Committee’s report and recommendations on the 2020 budget law, in addition to the bill governing the budget of independent state agencies, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

According to MP Riyad Azzam, the committee's rapporteur, the panel has recommended that the total public expenditure be reduced so as to keep the estimated deficit level within the GDP ratio.

Azzam said that the committee has lowered the current expenditure in the law by JD49 million and the capital spending by JD157 million and decreased the current capital expenditures of the independent government units by JD14 million and JD11 million respectively.  

The lawmaker also highlighted the committee’s recommendation that more independent public institutions be merged, especially those carrying out similar tasks.

The panel also called for reconsidering the pensions of pre-2012 retirees and raising the pensions of the Social Security Corporation, he added.

Other recommendations, according to Azzam, included developing the efficiency of tax collecting, increasing the allowances of refugee camp committees in addition to enhancing public-private partnership.  

The Chamber decided to give each parliamentary bloc 15 minutes and each individual MP 10 minutes to present their notes on the budget laws.

In December, the government presented the 2020 draft state budget law to the Lower House, with an estimated deficit of JD1.247 billion after foreign grants, Petra reported.

Reading a detailed report before lawmakers, Finance Minister Mohamad Al-Ississ said that current expenditures are expected to reach JD8.383 billion with an increase of JD414 million from 2019.

He said that 65 per cent of the current expenditures will go as salaries for serving and retired civil and military employees.

Al-Ississ said that the value of capital spending in 2020 is estimated at JD1.425 billion, registering an "unprecedented" increase of 33 per cent.

The minister said that the 2020 draft state budget law saw a rise in domestic revenues to reach JD7.754 billion, registering an increase of 10.4 per cent from the JD7.021 billion reestimated in 2019, according to Petra.

Foreign grants are expected to reach JD807 million in 2020, the same as the reestimated value in 2019, the minister said.

Al-Ississ noted that the deficit in the 2020 budget is estimated to reach JD1.247 billion after grants, up from JD1.215 billion of the reestimated value for 2019.

Before grants, 2020's deficit was estimated in the law at JD2.054 billion, or 6.4 per cent of GDP, compared with JD2.018 billion of the reestimated deficit in 2019, constituting 6.5 per cent of GDP.

According to the draft law, tax revenues are expected to increase by JD853 million to JD5.651 billion compared with a reestimated JD4.798 billion for 2019, while non-tax revenues are expected to see a 5.4 per cent drop to JD2.103 billion in 2020, down from the JD2.223 billion reestimated for 2019.

MP Alia Abu Helayel noted that the House is “hopeful that 2020 will be better than 2019” in terms of economic activity, increasing growth rates in a way that raises incomes and generating more job opportunities despite the modest expected economic growth rate, Petra reported. 

Abu Helayel pointed out that the budget deficit for 2020 was estimated after grants at an unprecedented 4 per cent of GDP, stressing the high value Jordanians place on decent living and social justice.

The MP called for the development of a national strategy to achieve community security and distribute material and human resources in a transparent and just way.

MP Khaled Fannatsah expressed appreciation for the government's four recent incentive packages to stimulate the economy and its efforts to increase the salaries of servants and retirees, both civilian and military.

He said that this increase "came after 10 scant years and did not meet expectations, especially for retirees".

The MP demanded that the government support the Jordanian armed forces and all security agencies, and increase the salaries of civil retirees and social security pensioners.

MP Musa Hantash denounced the statements of the US ambassador to Israel, who described Jordan's presence in the West Bank as “an occupation”, urging the government to respond to these allegations. He also rejected the controversial gas deal with Israel, according to Petra. 

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