A Thing or Two the Government Could Do…

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sat 14 January / Jan 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

When current expenses grow uncontrolled, to about JOD7.6 billion annually, out of an overall expenditure of JOD8.9 billion, it can only bring more complexity to an already tangled up situation, making it near hopeless for economic pressures to loosen up any time soon.

Controlling and minimising current spending is a difficult, but not impossible task. It distributes, according to the 2017 Budget Bill, as follows: JOD2 billion allocated for the civil sector, JOD2.3 billion for the military, and JOD1.2 billion for pensions and remuneration, in addition to JOD1 billion in payable interest on loans.

The rest of the spending goes to subsidies on foodstuff, including bread and fodder, at JOD119 million, notwithstanding the allocation of JOD100 million for medical support, JOD72 million for universities, as well as JOD91 million for scheduled welfare.

Notably, under the current expenses section for 2017, there is a sizeable sub-category that stands at JOD350 million, titled “Accrued Liabilities”.

The government explains that these “accrued” expenses are a sum of previous unmet liabilities on expenditures uncited in Budget appendices over the years, in an outspoken contradiction with Constitutional clauses necessitating full disclosure and transparency.

More so, there are next to all that details, which stand out in the spending sections of the Budget Bill by the way, indicating massive flaws in spending control and guidance in general, and they a multitude, all conveying one clear message to the citizen tax-payer: the their money is not being spent wisely.

Despite the crisis, and the suffocating pressures of it, spending patterns are the same, as if it’s nothing! Ministries and government bodies carry on spending like it’s not their business; the economic storm sinking our economy that is. As a result, the government decides to spend more, instead of less, or at least control it! And the evidence to this is abundant; from luxurious government and minister vehicles, which are uncommonly used by officials around the world; even in some of the world’s most wealthy countries, mind you, to decisions entailing refurnishing minister and administrator offices, which are too often occurring.

As current spending expands to unprecedented levels which cannot be easily or quickly handled, it is vital and critical that ground-breaking measures be placed, and now. Chief of which is putting a decisive leash on the pensions bill; to make sure that not a single official, no matter their rank, is eligible to receive civil pension. Meaning that no ministers or government employees should be assigned per the Civil Pensions Clause, and instead include them all under the Social Security system

Moreover, to create opportunities for youth, if there are any opportunities left, that is; the many retiree contracts reassigning retired officials accordingly to ministries need to be suspended. This includes discontinuing bonuses extended by previous Cabinet clauses, which are still being facilitated to some employees.

We do not have the luxury to afford all that.

Another luxury we no longer afford is the vehicles made available on the public expense for official employees; to make it clear, we are at a point where it would not be as rude to recall vehicles and resort to cashing in expense slips.

Just as well, cars allocated for ranking officials should also be looked into; vehicles with engine capacities over 2000CCs should be discarded.

Now some would say we are going too far, but perhaps it is time to re-acquire the homes, real-estate, houses, and cars so many officials, prime ministers, ministers, MPs, and Aps left their offices with.

Speaking about details, the ones which provoke the citizenry; why not reroute the sums payable to government representatives in Contribution companies via the Ministry of Finance, so that specific amounts are cashed for eligible personnel under what might be known as the “Directors Board Membership Bonus” system?

On another note, why not suspend customs and tax exemptions on rental car registrations? Especially since so many of the investors in these fields are foreigners. If not, to compensate for these exemptions, why not raise licensing fees?

In just a little over 700 words, here are just some of the ideas applicable to address a bundle of financial deformities in our spending patterns, which are contributing greatly to our economic situation.

More importantly, these will communicate an invaluable and outstanding message and morale to the public.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.

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