What in Return…

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Wed 7 December / Dec 2016. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Wed 7 December / Dec 2016. 09:08 PM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Even during the closed part of the Minister of Finance Omar Malhas’ meet with the Parliamentary Committee of Financial Affairs, he did not disclose the means by which, or sources, the government plans to boost public revenues by JOD450 million as stated in the 2017 Budget, even though the public knows it will be out of their own pockets.

For that, there are only two possible explanations. The first is that the Minister is predetermined to withhold this particular piece of information from the public and their MPs, to avoid provocation on these boosts, which are definitely reflective on popular services and commodities. Which means that the Minister prefers to undisclosed these information until the government’s scheme passes unaddressed.

Typically, this is expected of the official approach, utterly contradictive to the principles of transparency when it comes to decisions regarding people, their lives, and their incomes. So, they would usually resort to this kind of approach, which in the end shocks the public, when there’s nothing left to do!

The second explanation would be that the Minister does not know where the extra JOD450 million comes from, which is not a justifiable explanation. However, there is a context for this having happened many times before, and we had relentlessly paid the price. Many of these instances included exaggerated estimations of income, which would eventually lead to an expansion in deficits and indebtedness, due to a subsequent increase in expenditure. This is evident in public finances today!

Either way, any one of those explanations would raise a question of public interest, related to the importance of disclosing public information to the public, away from the typical ambiguity; saying that next year is going to be hard or that 2017 is a tough year, and statements of the sort. So far, the government has yet to explain why next year is going to be so harsh. Or is to preface the collection of JOD450 million out the people’s pockets, which I don’t know if the people can actually afford it!

More so, whereas the government did warn us of the difficulty of what lies ahead, they did not share with the people what they intend to give the people in return for these ‘difficult decisions’; what reforms? Services? With the courage to drain the people dry, do they have what it takes to constitute reforms in the financial structures of the public treasury?

Hence, the ethical question posed for Dr Hani Mulqi’s government: will the Cabinet establish real, strict measures to control expenditure? Will officials no longer fly first and business class? Will our government ever so dearly stop spending money as though we were some Gulf state? Will such provocative luxuries extended to members of the government be suspended? If the answer is ‘yes’, they why not address the public openly on what is expected of the people to endure?

Most probably, the upcoming statements will probably range from intent to “tighten the noose” to vigorously controlling expenditure, but we’ve heard all that before. There is a massive space between what government’s say and what they do; our governments never hold to these promises.

Another question for the government: will the government please explain to us why they have not adapted a result-driven budget? Subsequently, to what extent are the figures forecasted and sought attainable against all odds? This would include the currently low inflow of public revenue, due to the economic slowdown and the modest growth rate. How on earth is the government planning to achieve a 3.3 per cent growth in GDP next year? It is by all measures of expectation, domestic and foreign, farfetched, particularly in the eyes of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)!

Additionally, has the government any idea how further reinterring policies would reflect on the variety of economic sectors? Have they studied it thoroughly; how these policies would affect growth? More dangerously, has the government paused to think for a second how these policies will affect the middle class? Have they considered the already frustrated public mood and how the people will view further decisions of the sort?!

Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions is ‘no’.

Alternately, the government should thoroughly review their proposed decisions, that such decisions are not individually conclusive, and therefore individually accountable.

More so, the government should endeavour to aggregate as much consensus on their intentional directives!