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House passes budget after trimming expenditures

By Raed Omari - Feb 25,2015 - Last updated at Feb 25,2015

AMMAN — The Lower House passed on Wednesday the 2015 budget law in addition to the bill governing the budget of independent state agencies, following eight marathon sessions during which 110 MPs took the podium.

A majority of deputies voted in favour of the Financial Committee's amendments to the law, cutting the 2015 state budget deficit to JD468 million, from the JD688 million in the government version. 
MPs also approved a committee’s recommendation to trim the size of the budget from JD8.09 billion to JD7.876 billion. 

The House also okayed panel's amendments to cut down current expenditure from JD6.922 billion as estimated in the government’s version of the law to around JD6.7 billion.

The vote on the bill came right after Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and Finance Minister Umayya Toukan presented the government's reply to deputies' comments on the budget.

An overwhelming majority of MPs also turned down a request by MP Mahmoud Kharabseh to reject the 17-article budget law as a whole. 

Following the endorsement of the draft law, MPs began to vote on the state institutions' budget law, which also won the approval of an overwhelming majority of lawmakers. 

The size of revenues of state institutions in 2015 is estimated at JD813.7 million while their spending is put around JD1.8 billion. 

Regarding the National Electric Power Company’s losses, the Financial Committee recommended that electricity prices be raised by 7.5 per cent instead of 15 per cent under a deal it had reached with the government although the House in January took a non-binding decision to reject any raise in the power tariffs for end-users, citing the sharp decline in international oil prices. 

Addressing the Chamber ahead of vote, Ensour noted that the government has no intention to raise bread prices, but added that there needs to be a mechanism to make sure that the subsidy goes to those who deserve it.

Ensour also said that the public debt has not increased due to the government’s capital or current expenditures but because of the fat energy bill.

The premier added that his government succeeded in decreasing unemployment rates in 2014 by 1.7 per cent despite the large number of Syrian refugees and their impact on job market. 

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