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Unrestricted democracy and social safety net

Feb 15,2021 - Last updated at Feb 15,2021

At first glance, it may seem that Article 112, Paragraph 4 of the Jordanian Constitution places a restriction on the powers of the National Assembly to make transfers between the expenditures chapters. However, the evident fact is that it authorised the National Assembly, after the discussion of the draft budget law, to propose the development of laws to create new expenditures.

The article states: “The National Assembly, when discussing the draft general budget bill or the temporary laws related to it, may reduce expenditures in the chapters according to what it deems appropriate for the public interest, and it has no right to increase these expenditures, neither by the method of amendment nor by the method of the proposal submitted separately.” However, after the discussion ends, the National Assembly may propose the development of laws to create new expenditures.

Moreover, the text of Article 112, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution stipulated the existence of a law in order to allow any amount in the expenditures section of the general budget to be transferred from one chapter to another. It states the following: "It is not permissible to transfer any amount in the expenditures section of the General Budget from one chapter to another except by law." Therefore, I believe that our democracy is not restricted by the texts of our Constitution, and the ball is in the Lower House of the Parliament’s court now. 

We bring these important points to Parliament: Whereas today the Lower House of Parliament is discussing the budget bill for the current year, and in such circumstances; as I wrote recently in this corner, we were expecting the Finance Committee in the Lower House of Parliament to take advanced steps to strengthen the social safety net, provided that this is to transfer the amount of JD148 million, which the Finance Committee recommended to reduce expenditures by that amount, to the groups eligible for support. This is especially since the data available on the account balance of the "Himmat Watan" Fund indicate that it today reached JD1.2 million only, after it was more than 94 million dinars. All of this out of my complete belief in the necessity of the state treasury's contribution to supporting the poor and most deserving and vulnerable groups in such circumstances imposed by the Corona pandemic.

Hence, when discussing the draft budget law for 2021, I propose to the Lower House of Parliament the following: First, to abandon the recommendation of the Finance Committee to reduce capital expenditures to give room for government expenditures to contribute to economic growth, which the Kingdom desperately needs now. Second, presenting an urgent draft law for the social safety net to confront the repercussions of the Corona pandemic, and allocating an amount of at least JD250 million to support the poorest and most affected groups in society from this pandemic, financed through the issuance of individual development bonds, from which individuals benefit and not others.

This, of course, requires amending the financing budget by adding an item to issue development bonds worth 250 million dinars on the sources side and the same amount on the uses side to be spent on the social safety net items defined by the proposed law, especially the National Aid Fund and others.

As for the reasons for the new legislation, although they are clearly visible, convincing arguments must be put in place to convince the decision makers of the necessity of this law. In ideal economies, market forces` carry out the task of distributing resources and income, but in reality no economy can operate under ideal conditions and the invisible hand that corrects imbalances usually disappears. Under these circumstances, every market economy suffers from defects that exacerbate economic diseases such as high rates of poverty and unemployment. For these reasons, there is a need for a greater role for the government to support the groups most affected by the repercussions of the Corona pandemic.

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