An Integrated Economic Task-Force

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sat 16 September / Sep 2017. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Sun 17 September / Sep 2017. 02:21 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

 Technically; the fiscal year is almost over, and the Ministry of Finance, along with the Public Budget Department, is preparing for next year’s Budget Bill.

 In order for the Budget Bill to be reviewed by Parliament and ratified by the end of the year, it is supposed to be ready no later than November.

 However, with everything going on recently, it is not clear whether the effort is on track in regards to any such preparations.

 Not long ago, we agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to increase public revenues by some JOD450 million.

 Are we going to uphold to this agreement given the circumstances in full, or in part?!

 So far, the government has not reached a final decision.

 Meanwhile, news that the government is really going to stick by its pledges to the IMF, is not helping the situation.

 With every passing day, tension builds despite the Premier’s promises to preserve the income tax allowances extended to individuals, and protect the Middle Class.

With only two months to spare, we still have not the slightest clue what the fate of Amendments to the Income Tax Law really is.

 Now, to be fair, it takes time to build concessional and constructive propositions to the taxation mechanism. And it gets far more complex.

 We’re talking tax hikes with minimal negative repercussions on economic sectors and households alike, all the while attaining the goals of the Amendments.

 Needless to say, that is to convincingly raise public revenues up to an acceptable, satisfactory level, for the Fund to lighten up a little.

 If ever there is an economic challenge, it is mitigating the implications of tax hikes under such suffocating economic, domestic, and regional conditions!

 Then there is the time factor.

 As if the task itself wasn’t difficult enough!

 In fact, to arrive at a sustainable, balanced, and effective taxation legislation, one that will last us more than two years, we need to go over the entirety of our taxation system.

More so, this needs to be done right, all of it, within just two months.

 That said, the government has to partner up with the civil sector, the private sector, and individuals, to attain a preferred outcome, and it has to do it fast.

 In the meantime, the other player in this equation is the IMF, whose delegation is due to arrive in Amman this week, to further negotiations.

 On this occasion, the government has only the next few days to convince the IMF of the near impossibility of the task at hand, and of the situation as a whole.

 The IMF needs to know what is at stake here, domestically.

 Whether or not the government is going to succumb to the IMF and agree to ready excise-oriented “recipes”, is really beyond me at this moment!

 Perhaps the government will approach the Fund from a standpoint that prioritises the public’s interest and welfare this time, who knows.

 Meanwhile, the public mood is building with negativity, and rightly so, due to the overwhelming anticipation of further difficult and harsh taxation decisions.

 To navigate this situation, it helps to put things into perspective for the IMF.

 Our ministers and officials need to openly and honestly enlighten the Fund’s delegation on the culminating public discontent.

 In return, the IMF needs to balance between a society on edge, a difficult financial situation, and various fundamental and structural deformities in our Public Budget.

 Until then, the government and its partners need to get busy.

 In order to succeed at all, the government needs to put together a core task-force of specialists, comprised of experts from the public, private, and civil sectors.

 Make no mistake, the task at hand is enormous, and only an integrated, all-encompassing effort can attain it!

 Especially under the straining pressure of time!

 Sadly, as far as I know, the government has yet to put in motion any such effort!

 Soon enough, the Budget will tell whether we’re on the right course, or simply headed for yet another disaster.

 It won’t be long now before the government’s intentions come to light.

 Will Mulqi and his team steer the country to safety, with comprehensive, financial reforms, or will they fail us as many indeed expect?!

 Will the government fix the Budget’s fundamental imbalances and address the inexplicable expansion in expenditure?!

 Come November, we’ll see!

 If the government miraculously rectified some of its errors, shares the weight, then maybe it succeeds.

 Still, I doubt any of this is attainable with the integrated effort we spoke of; a task-force of experts from all sectors involved in this tricky affair!

 Now, in truth, nothing indicates such a unit, a core economic task-force, even exists.

 So, will they listen this time? Will government incorporate an integrated economic unit?

 If so, I must insist, when; because we’re running out of time!

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