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Refugee arithmetic

Feb 17,2014 - Last updated at Feb 17,2014

Governments should not throw numbers they cannot justify.

Like the Ministry of Finance’s handling of the budget, the Ministry of Education seems to be having trouble with its arithmetic.

In a very objective article, Jawad Abbassi determined in no uncertain terms that the numbers that are being thrown are far from true.

The ministry’s claim that, at a minimum, the government is bearing an additional JD450 million annually due to spending on the Syrian students is a tremendous exaggeration, to say the least.

For the almost 1.7 million Jordanian students, the budget was JD855 million in 2013; for the 6.6 per cent increase in the number of Syrian student population, which stands at 111,589, the budget could not have witnessed a 53 per cent increase.

Even if the budget rises to JD903 million in 2014 and the number of Syrian students becomes 140,000 (an increase of 8 per cent from the 2013 student population), the rise in the cost should be by 8 per cent only, not 50 per cent.

One could easily see that, historically, the jumps in the Ministry of Education budgets were in 2011 and 2012, when the teachers went on strike and received wage adjustments.

How come there were no discernible jumps in the budget of the ministry after the refugees started to flow into Jordan?

Is the ministry asking for funds retroactively?

In other words, the cost of the Syrian students could not have exceeded JD56 million in 2013, the worst year, but not JD450 million as the ministry claimed.

Furthermore, the ministry was more affected by compliance with the just demands of the nation’s teachers than by the influx of Syrian refugees.

The ministry could have made the case, on the other hand, that the influx of new students and their concentration in certain areas of the country necessitated the building of new schools, hiring more teachers and support staff, etc. Donors could allocate, thus, funds for makeshift schools and semipermanent or even permanent structure.

I believe that there is an exaggeration in estimating the negative impact of the refugees in Jordan, not in the educational sector only, but in all sectors, a practice that Jordan has become adept at since dealing with the Iraqi refugee crisis.

I also believe that the Jordanian economy has benefited more than it was harmed by the Syrian exodus.

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