AMMAN: Jordan’s lower house on Monday passed the 2022 draft laws for the state budget and for this year’s budgets of independent public institutions after marathon deliberations that dragged on for seven days.
Of the 130-member lower house, a total of 107 members of parliament took the podium to comment on the budget laws, with most of them expressing alarm over “high” unemployment rates and calling for increased capital spending to create jobs.
According to official figures, the unemployment rate in Jordan reached 23.2 percent in the third quarter of 2021.
The public expenditures are projected in the draft law at JD 10.068 billion ($14.105 billion) and the pre-foreign aid budget deficit at JD 2.604 billion, or 7.7 percent of the gross domestic product.
The post-foreign aid budget deficit is estimated in the law to stand at JD 1.756 billion, or 5.2 percent of the estimated GDP.
Current expenditures are estimated at JD 9.117 billion, up by JD 327 million, or 3.7 percent from the JD 8.79 billion set forth in the 2021 budget.
Healthcare allocations are increased in the budget law by JD 177 million to a total of JD 1.113 billion against JD 956 million in the 2021 budget, including JD 110 million set aside for the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2022 budget estimates the domestic revenue to stand at JD 8.064 billion, up by JD 763 million, or 10.4 percent year on year.
This year’s budget also forecasts a total of JD 848 million in foreign assistance against JD 840 million in 2021, rising by JD 8 million only.
Responding to lawmakers’ notes, Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Ississ said that the government’s focus will be on implementing more structural reforms to enhance fiscal and monetary stability and improve the country’s business competitiveness.
Describing this year’s budget as “realistic” and “unconventional,” the minister said that capital spending has been increased by 43.6 percent in this year’s budget as part of efforts to establish job-creating ventures.
He also said that the government has allocated JD 80 million in this year’s budget for the national recruitment program in addition to JD 50 million and JD 30 million in support of the kingdom’s tourism and industrial sectors.
Al-Ississ added that the government has allocated JD 20 million for the Social Security Corporation’s Estidama (sustainability), which targets sectors hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The relief program, which was launched last year under a defense order, helps affected institutions pay the full wages of their workers.
The Jordan National Defense Law came into force in mid-March 2020 following a royal decree. The law grants the prime minister wide powers to undertake all necessary measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the kingdom.
While many sectors, especially those unauthorized to operate as per COVID-19-containment measures, call for lifting the Defense Law, many are concerned that ending the pandemic-related legislation would increase unemployment rates.
Under the Defense Law, no institution can lay off any worker but can, rather, pay partial wages or benefit from Estidama if proved to be hard-hit by the pandemic.
Arab News learned that tens of international organizations operating in the kingdom have sent letters to the prime minister, pleading for exemptions from the Defense Law to be able to lay off employees whose salaries, they said, they are unable to pay anymore due to a lack of necessary funds.