By Fahed Khitan

How to Handle This?!

The Premier and Minister of Finance presented to the Representative Committee on Financial Affairs on Sunday, the government’s proposal for the allocations expected to fund the cited JOD450 million increase in Public Revenues, according to the 2017 Budget Bill.

The general outline was known for weeks, which is primarily based on increasing sales and general taxation, particularly on imported commodities, in addition to raising the tariffs and fees for some government services, as well as the long awaited tax increase on baseline fuel prices, notwithstanding the preliminary estimates of saving close to JOD180 million off the medical exemptions, which are being reengineered while reassuring citizen access to basic medical services will be maintained.

Prime Minister, Dr Hani Mulqi, according to official sources close to him, realise the implications of raising prices, especially for the social segment with limited incomes. Hence is why the Premier revoked amendments to many basic and other vital commodities, and excluded these amendments on imported products and other exclusive consumer commodities.

Supposedly, Mulqi has looked into serious propositions by the MP financial committee to lower expenses and establish alternative income for the Treasury.

Mulqi also has access to 5 other proposals submitted by Speaker of the House Atef Tarawneh, who says they would serve an actually realistic alternative, instead of increasing taxation.

Regardless the outcomes of deliberations between the government and the MP committee, the Treasury stands in a critical position, which would make it difficult for decision makers to totally dismiss the proposed resolutions completely, so long as the increase in the 2017 Revenues is still an objective.

The general public mood is not surprisingly negative, due to the already difficult economic situation. The people cannot comprehend these new coarse and ruthless decision on their own; they need to be convinced. Notably, the public mood has derailed into a dangerous track, pending a detailed official explanation by the government to put things into perspective and reassure the people, with tangible evidence, that the masses, including the middle class, will not be further weighed with more economic burdens.

In the meantime, the government should immediately put more austerity in place. Even though these may not reflect much financially, but they are indispensable to the discourse of appealing to the masses.

An example of statesmen abusing their official capacities would be the designation of additional vehicles —and drivers— for the families for 1st and 2nd class state officials, running on the public expense.

Additionally, luxury cars are unnecessary for officials, let alone their spouses.

Fairly speaking, this is not a secluded denotation. Many; possibly even most, officials in government institutions and companies owned by the government. This must cease at once.

In the eyes of the citizenry, these ‘small’ details are big, for they represent corruption itself, reflecting an image of the bureaucratic device that is inconsistent with the general difficult economic and financial situation.

The people will bear this no more, alone, until they witness fundamental change in the behaviours of officials and the way public institutions are administrated.

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