Will Our Government Ever Learn?

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sat 28 January / Jan 2017. 01:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Sun 29 January / Jan 2017. 01:22 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

In the endeavour to clarify the decisions passed to raise the additional JOD450 million highlighted in the 2017 Budget, the government finally has a plan, of some sort, for a change; instead of the series of shocks delivered by the Ministry of Finance not long ago.

Step one was Prime Minister Dr Hani Maulqi’s appearance on national television on Friday, in an attempt to reassure the public that the situation, no matter how difficult, is still under control, and that things are not as ominous.

Moreover, Mulqi confirmed to us that our national currency is still intact, and that Jordan’s foreign reserves are higher than the global benchmark ratio.

In highlights too, he also spoke of decisions his government will take without explaining their financial implications, leaving the details out for the two ministers of Media and Finance, Dr Mohammad Momani and Omar Malhas, to address the scheduled price hikes for a variety of commodities and services, among other things to explain.

Due to the weather, however, the ministers’ public address was postponed.

Following their appearance, is the press conference to be held by the Minister of Industry and Trade, Yarub Qudah, to explain which commodities are not included in the recent general sales tax amendment —until further notice.

Afterwards, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Dr Ibrahim Saif, should make a public statement to elaborate on upcoming price hikes on fuel and oil derivative prices, as well as on how these increases are going to be distributed, with a certain JOD0.05 increase on octane fuels, applied over two phases.

Minister of Communications, Majd Shweikeh, is also expected to make a public appearance to explain to us, in detail, how the additional JOD120 million are going to be made off our telecommunications sector without damaging it and insuring its continued growth and progress. The Minister is should just as well to share with us her plans on how exactly will she be able to increase technological productivity.

Likewise, because these additional revenues are distributed across a variety of sectors, we expect Dr Ali Ghizawi, the minister of labour, to address the public on the decision to unify labour permits at JOD500 for different sectors, enlightening us on the estimated returns of this decision and how exactly is it going to contribute to maintaining and restoring balance to the national labour market.

When all that is explained, the average Jordanian will know exactly which commodities and services are getting raised and which are not.

That said, price hikes on luxury items will not inflict much damage —notably, but some of these decisions will affect the totality of the Jordanian population, prime of which are the price increases on fuels; which affect all sectors, subsequently raising the general cost median of services and commodities for all Jordanians.

With that, Mulqi and members of his cabinet would have concluded their elaboration, which does not necessarily mean that people will accept it. Still, it would mean that the government has gone back on their typical dismissal of the public opinion, in what may be a desperate move to get the public to swallow the government’s decisions and move on.

The important lesson in this is that the government learns that it is vital to discuss future policies with the sectors directly and indirectly affected by them before passing them, instead of the other way around, which is what happened when this year.

For next year’s Budget, 2018, we would hope the government does not adopt the same approach. You don’t set the budget, get it approved, and then say: “well, that’s that, it’s done; now deal with it!”

Inevitably, but hopefully soon, the government has to begin real reforms, basing on controlling expenditure, instead of the other way around.

Mulqi has to make a statement to the public, reassuring them that this is the last they will see of reinterring and collecting, and that the government does indeed intent to lead in a productive economy; that the treasury will have other sources of income, instead of resorting always to the public’s wallets.

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