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A qualitative leap in the role of Parliament

Feb 13,2021 - Last updated at Feb 13,2021

In terms of structure, the 2021 budget does not differ from previous budgets; the deficit continues to worsen and indebtedness at record levels, whether in absolute value or relative to GDP, regardless of the exclusion of an item here or there, and the subsequent burdens of debt service.

About JD1.5 billion have been allocated for debt service in the current year 2021, this is equivalent to 70.7 per cent of the budget deficit; Debt is high and its service is on the increase, which strains the budget. This structural imbalance is still a companion to budgets.

The Finance Committee in the Lower House of the Parliament recommended in its report issued few days ago to reduce expenditures in the general budget and the budget of government units by JD148 million; JD85 million from the general budget and JD62 million from the government units budget. The reduction focused on the capital expenditures item, with a value of JD66 million, which weakened the contribution of the government in bringing about economic growth, which the Kingdom desperately needs.

We had expected from the Finance Committee in the Lower House of the Parliament serious steps towards achieving the sustainable development goals approved by the United Nations in 2015. In addition to their constitutional responsibility, parliamentarians have an opportunity to play an important role in supporting and monitoring the implementation of the sustainable development goals.

The declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development endorsed the reality of the essential role of national parliaments in enacting legislation and approving budgets, as well as their role in ensuring accountability for the effective implementation of states' obligations in achieving sustainable development goals. Parliament members are in a single position to act as a link between the people and state institutions, and to promote and adopt people-centred policies and legislation, so that no one is marginalised.

We expected the Finance Committee in the Lower House of the Parliament to take advanced steps in light of these difficult circumstances to strengthen the social security network by transferring the amount of JD148 million to the groups eligible for support instead of reducing it from expenditures, especially since the data available on the account balance of Himmat Watan Fund indicates its decline from JD94.4 million, to reach today only JD1.2 million. The state’s treasury must contribute to supporting the poor, and ensure that support is on going for the most deserving groups.

The rise in the salary, wages and retirement bill means that the state is still the main employer and generator of job opportunities, so where is the role of the private sector? What is required is to re-launch the private sector to be an active partner in achieving economic and social development and creating new job opportunities. We hope that Parliament will find appropriate mechanisms to activate the role of the private sector in the various governorates of the Kingdom and its economic sectors. Here, his role comes in examining the flaw in the investment window that was opened but did not make a qualitative leap in the mechanism of the bureaucracy that sets and implements investment policies.

We need to reformulate the terms of the budget, and we need to unify the central government budget with the budgets of government units, so a combined budget is presented in terms of revenues, expenditures and deficits so that we do not keep talking about a deficit in the general budget away from the combined deficit to which the deficit of government units is added.

The budget is a future financial plan. We need a methodology of accountability and control over the implementation of the provisions of this financial plan from Parliament, consistent with accounting standards, or at least a periodic review of the performance of the national economy within previously agreed achievement standards and key performance indicators. Therefore, a qualitative leap in the role of the Parliament is badly needed this time. 

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