Unfortunately, the government is not serious

تم نشره في Sun 22 February / Feb 2015. 02:47 PM

By Jumana Ghunaimat

 

It was said that the reduction of the operating expenses, as a number, is not financially feasible, due to its low percentage compared to the total state budget. It was also said that reducing the value of this item, indicates the sincerity of government in its intentions to reform the financial sector, and reduce the distortions suffered by the general budget.

In the 2015 budget, we discover that, unfortunately, the government is not serious about reducing spending on fuel, cars, other aspects of operating expenses, but on the contrary; it seems that the government reneged on all its promises to reduce extravagant spending that falls under operating expenses category.

In numbers, operating expenses for the current year rose by 24 million, to reach about 292 million dinars, compared to 268 million last year.

The 24 million figure does not mean much, compared to the general budget, which is more than 8 billion dinars, but they are an important message that confirms that the government is not serious in tightening its belt; not only when it comes to citizen's pockets, but also public money, and directing spent properly.

The problem is that this increase comes after the regulation adopted by the government of Dr. Abdullah Ensour, which ruled to reduce the operational expenses. This means one thing and that is that the mentality of spending public money to curb its wastage has not changed, in spite of all the data.

Among the actions that have not seen the light, for example, is to prevent the use of four-wheel drive cars, and write off cars that sports an engine sized more than 3000cc, among many other decisions that were kept on the shelves, albeit temporarily.

Moreover, there is another problem in the general budget; despite all the talk about the development of higher education and improve its level, we see that support for universities, under the 2015 budget, remains at the value of 57 million dinars. It would have been better, obviously, and more useful for young people and educational institutions and for the country as a whole in nutshell, to keep the value of operating expenses at its level of last year, and direct the additional pot of money (24 million dinars) to support universities.

The other story that needs revisiting is the size of the current expenditure, which have increased by 193 million dinrs for 2015, to reach 6.922 billion dinars, compared with 6.729 billion dinars in the last year. It is clear that this item is rising year after year, unlike what is required in order to take a real step on the road to financial reforms. The size of these expenses, which accounts for 85.4% of the general budget, is very large; the shows the lack of flexibility in the national economy, and is a very serious threat to the financial stability and the ability of the economy to achieve comfortable growth rates.

Big jumps in this item specifically came after the restructuring of salaries, which previous governments misestimated; it was thought to be around 82 million, but the real cost to the state budget amounted to about 400 million dinars, which was added to the wage bill. Not only that, it did not come to end the distortions in public sector salaries, but on the contrary; it consecrated them, and failed to achieve justice among the workers in this sector, including exacerbating the gap between staff.

After years of talking about financial reforms, the distortions are still increasing. The most important reason for that is that the will achieve what is necessary is still modest, if not nonexistent, despite the dangers around delaying the desired reforms.

@jumanaghunaimat

 

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition

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