State budget: We meet in 2016

تم نشره في Thu 26 February / Feb 2015. 01:48 PM

By Jumana Ghunaimat

The vote on the budget law ended as expected; the House of Representatives approved the budget, just as it received it from the government, except perhaps spending cuts worth up to 200 million dinars, including cash support for fuel amounting to 180 million dinars, making the value of public spending 7.9 billion dinars.

Also as expected - sad and depressing at the same time - the budget discussion was an opportunity for many of deputies to throw insults and charges to the government, in a theatrical performance that does not end, and criticized by even a fraction of the deputies themselves.

Frankly, everyone raised the important question on the feasibility and benefit of the budget discussion, but for consecutive days the government, premier and ministers, was sitting and listening to some MPs outbidding who raise their voices under the dome, advancing demands in closed rooms, at a time when both parties were aware that the change on the budget is out of the question. But no harm, as long as the opportunity to scold the government has come, at least in front of the electoral basis!

As a result, the performance of the House of Representatives was not a surprise, the majority of them, during the discussion of the current budget, but was in line with past practice; most of the letters discussed issues not even relevant, which leads, again, to wasted opportunity to introduce reforms the budget.

What made it more difficult was the rise in oil prices over the past month, to levels close to US$60 a barrel, a number that deputies called for in the budget.

Deputies did not discuss the cons of the budget and the distortions in it; they did not heed, on the other hand, to a positive indicator that limits the expenditures of the central government to the amount spent last year.

The MPs statements were long, unhelpful, and filled with attempts to settle personal scores with the premier; which confirming the futility of continuing to discuss the state budget in this way.

In the interest of full disclosure, the limited impact might be because of the state of impasse reached by the general budget. The margin of adjustment and change remains limited, due to the high current expenditures, estimated at about 6.9 billion dinars, or nearly 85% of the total public budget amounting to nearly 8 billion dinars.

The stalemate appears mainly because the majority of expenditure items come within the category of fixed expenses. For example, the wages bill amounts to some 3.7 billion dinars, while the value of debt service amounts to one billion dinars.

However, the biggest failure of the deputies was neglecting to speak about waste in the general budget, and confront current Finance Minister Dr. Umayya Toukan, on the necessity to address this problem, which was recognized by him personally in 2011, and estimated the volume at 15 to 20% of the budget.

Time, proper planning for the economic approach, and achieve high growth rates remain the solutions to alleviate the problems of the general budget.

Regardless, the House of Representatives missed, again, another chance to activate its oversight role over the government, especially on the subject of direct spending and linking the results.

We meet in the 2016 budget, to see how the case has changed at the level of budget preparation, as with the House of Representatives on its control over it.



This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition