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Lower House passes 2020 budget bill after four days of deliberations

By JT - Jan 16,2020 - Last updated at Jan 16,2020

The Lower House passes the 2020 state budget draft law and the draft law for the budgets of independent public institutions (JT photo)

AMMAN — The Lower House on Wednesday passed the 2020 state budget draft law and the draft for the year’s budgets of independent public institutions after deliberations that dragged on for four days, over eight sessions.

Replying to lawmakers' notes on the draft laws, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said that the raise endorsed by the government to the salaries of employees and pensioners is the first in 10 years, and was based on the belief in the importance of improving the living conditions of citizens, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.   

Razzaz emphasised that all spending is as stipulated and calculated in the budget law, refuting some MPs' claims on expenditures outside the state budget. The government is connected to an electronic financial system that bans spending outside the budget.

The premier also stressed that the government has no intention to privatise the educational and health sectors or any other vital sector.

He also said that the national goals the government has set forward will be implemented in "genuine" cooperation and coordination with lawmakers. 

Also during the session, Finance Minister Mohamad Al-Ississ said that the government has made a decision to reduce the sales tax on 76 commodities "that are important to all Jordanian families". 

These items include foodstuff and school stationery that are currently subject to either 10 or 4 per cent tax rate, where the levies will be cut down to 5 and 2 per cent, the minister noted as reported by Petra. 

During Wednesday's deliberations, MP Mustafa Khasawneh requested confirmation on the accuracy of the estimated figures for local revenues in the budget law, Petra reported.

Lawmaker Haya Shibli said that the government failed to achieve the forecasted budget growth for 2019, as it saw a growth of only JD76 million out of the expected JD135 million.

Deputy Intisar Hijazi said that the high rates of poverty and unemployment have caused widespread domestic violence, drug trafficking and drug use.

In December, the government presented the 2020 draft state budget law to the Lower House, with an estimated deficit of JD1.247 billion following foreign grants.

Reading a detailed report before lawmakers, Finance Minister Mohamad Al-Ississ said that current expenditures are expected to reach JD8.383 billion, an increase of JD414 million from 2019.

He noted that 65 per cent of the current expenditures will go towards salaries for serving and retired civil and military employees.

Al-Ississ added that the value of capital spending in 2020 is estimated at JD1.425 billion, registering an "unprecedented" increase of 33 per cent.

The 2020 draft state budget law saw a rise in domestic revenues to reach JD7.754 billion, registering an increase of 10.4 per cent from the JD7.021 billion reestimated in 2019, he said.

Foreign grants are expected to reach JD807 million in 2020, the same as the reestimated value in 2019, the minister said.

Al-Ississ explained that the deficit in the 2020 budget is estimated to reach JD1.247 billion after grants, up from JD1.215 billion in the reestimated value for 2019.

Before grants, 2020's deficit was estimated in the law at JD2.054 billion, or 6.4 per cent of the GDP, compared with JD2.018 billion of the reestimated 2019 deficit, constituting 6.5 per cent of the GDP.

According to the draft law, tax revenues are expected to increase by JD853 million to JD5.651 billion compared with JD4.798 billion reestimated for 2019, while non-tax revenues are expected to see a 5.4 per cent drop to JD2.103 billion in 2020, down from the JD2.223 billion reestimated for 2019.

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