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Government endorses austerity measures

By JT - Nov 16,2012 - Last updated at Nov 16,2012

AMMAN  — The government on Tuesday decided to take several austerity measures to reduce public spending.

In an interview with Jordan Television, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said the measures aim at increasing state revenues and cutting public spending.

The austerity package, he said, included halting appointments to senior positions at government agencies and reducing financial support to independent government institutions by 15 per cent.

Ensour also highlighted plans to merge some independent public agencies with similar mandates and scrap others. Independent agencies currently number 62.

According to Ensour, six government institutions will be scrapped and 10 others will be merged into five entities.

The decision includes the following measures as published by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, on Wednesday:

1. Reducing the number of Cabinet members to 20

2. Halting appointments in senior positions at government agencies and drawing up new standards for hiring public sector staff based on qualifications and competence

3. Halting recruitment in all ministries and public departments, including the ministries of health and education

4. Reducing budget allocations for independent government agencies by 15 per cent

5. Cutting the government’s operational spending by 15 per cent, and capital spending by 10 per cent

6. Reducing expenditure allocated in the budgets of the finance ministry and other ministries by JD85 million

7. Cutting military and security spending by around JD150 million

8. Endorsing the draft illicit fortunes law to monitor the fortunes of every government official

9. Tasking the Public Security Department with monitoring the use of public cars

10. Banning the use of public 4X4 vehicles and scrapping those over 20 years old, or those with engines over 3000cc

11. Reducing customs duties on hybrid vehicles by 25 per cent

12. Encouraging the use of renewable energy and exempting energy-saving and renewable energy devices from sales tax

13. Taking strict measures to ensure that only underprivileged people without health insurance benefit from medical support for uninsured patients

14. Turning off lights on main roads after midnight and reducing street lighting by 50 per cent

15. Providing citizens with solar heaters at cost under a JD1 million scheme to be implemented in cooperation with the Jordan River Foundation

16. Providing ministries and public agencies with 600,000 energy-saving light bulbs

17. Banning the purchase of new furniture

18. Limiting invitations of official delegations

19. Limiting foreign trips of official delegations, reducing the number of delegates and substituting them with Jordanian embassy staff abroad to take part in meetings

20. Banning expenses related to condolences or congratulations

21. Halting the rental of public buildings, except in emergencies

In terms of financial discipline policies, the government has decided to:

1. Merge some public agencies and scrap others through a special law

2. Reconsider privileges and benefits given to staff in public agencies, such as life insurance, private health insurance and public cars

3. Halt the purchase of new cars

4. Ease the licensing procedures of motorcycles

5. Adopt a progressive tax system in the draft amending the income tax law, which has been sent to Parliament

6. Impose special taxes on a limited number of luxury commodities and increase them on others

7. Control exemptions of work permit fees

8. Increase residency and visa fees

9. Limit the working hours of malls and charge higher fees on extra hours

10. Combat tax evasion

11. Reduce overdue taxes based on a clear strategy

12. Regulate tax exemptions and limit them according to the law and related agreements

13. Increase revenues of the mining sector and cancel wide exemptions, particularly on phosphate

14. Reconsider the phosphate file in terms of the government’s share from the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company revenues

15. Draft a law that stipulates the use of solar energy to reduce the Kingdom’s energy bill

16. Study the possibility of purchasing 1.5 million light bulbs and selling them to citizens at minimal prices

17. Apply technical measures in government departments to reduce electricity, water and fuel consumption

Investment-related policies include:

1. Granting tax incentives for major investment projects in water, energy, ICT and engineering industries

2. Focusing on supporting small- and medium-sized and innovative projects

The government will implement the public sector restructuring plan by:

- Scrapping the following entities:

1. The Executive Privatisation Commission and delegating its duties to the Ministry of Finance

2. The Jordanian Commission for the Development of the Investment Environment and Economic Activities

3. The National Information Technology Centre and delegating its duties to the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology

4. The Agriculture Risks Management Fund and delegating its duties to the Ministry of Agriculture

5. The Jordan Insurance Commission and delegating its duties related to licensing and monitoring to the Companies Control Department and the rest to the Ministry of Industry and Trade

6. The Jordan Institute of Diplomacy and include it in the Foreign Ministry

- Merging the following entities:

1. The Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the Electricity Regulatory Commission

2. The Jordan Investment Board with the Development Zones Commission

3. The Higher Youth Council and the Youth Leadership Centre, with the Ministry of Culture to form one ministry to be named the Ministry of Youth and Culture

4. The Ministry of Environment with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs

5. The Ministry of Political Development with the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to form the Ministry of Political Development and Parliamentary Affairs

6. The Jordanian Free Zones Corporation, the Jordan Industrial Estates Corporation and the Development Zones Commission to form one entity

- Moving the reference of the following entities from the prime minister to the specialised minister:

1. The Development and Employment Fund

2. The Higher Health Council

3. The Higher Education Accreditation Council

4. The Electricity Regulatory Commission

5. The Development Zones Commission

6. The Jordan Procurement Department

7. The Higher Population Council

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