Jordan’s lower house passes 2022 budget bill after seven days of deliberations

Of the 130-member lower house, a total of 107 members of parliament took the podium to comment on the budget laws. (Supplied)
Of the 130-member lower house, a total of 107 members of parliament took the podium to comment on the budget laws. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 February 2022

Jordan’s lower house passes 2022 budget bill after seven days of deliberations

Of the 130-member lower house, a total of 107 members of parliament took the podium to comment on the budget laws. (Supplied)
  • According to official figures, the unemployment rate in Jordan reached 23.2 percent in the third quarter of 2021

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.


Iran regrets IAEA stance on its nuclear work — Mizan

Iran regrets IAEA stance on its nuclear work — Mizan
Updated 10 sec ago

Iran regrets IAEA stance on its nuclear work — Mizan

Iran regrets IAEA stance on its nuclear work — Mizan
DUBAI: Iran’s said on Thursday that it regrets the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest position on Tehran’s nuclear work, according to Mizan news agency.
The UN nuclear watchdog criticized Iran on Wednesday for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant.

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
Updated 02 February 2023

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
  • Announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia

YEMEN: French naval forces seized thousands of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles earlier this month in the Gulf of Oman coming from Iran heading to Yemen’s Houthi militia, officials said Thursday, the latest such interdiction amid the Mideast nation’s long-running war.
While Iran did not immediately acknowledge the seizure, images of the weapons released by the US military’s Central Command showed them to be similar to others captured by American forces in other shipments tied back to Tehran.
The announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia during its war on Ukraine, as well as for its violent monthslong crackdown targeting protesters. Regional tensions also have heightened after a suspected Israeli drone attack on a military workshop in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. Previous cycles of violence since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers have seen the Islamic Republic launch retaliatory attacks at sea.
The seizure occurred Jan. 15 in the Gulf of Oman, a body of water that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, through to the Arabian Sea and onto the Indian Ocean. US Central Command described the interdiction as happening “along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen.”
A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who took the country’s capital in late 2014 and have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing the country's internationally recognized government since March 2015.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the seizure, identifying the forces involved as elite French special forces. A regional official with knowledge of the interdiction, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to not having permission to speak publicly on the operation’s details, similarly identified the French as carrying out the seizure.
The French military did not respond to requests for comment about capturing the weapons. US Central Command did not immediately respond to questions about the seizure, nor did Iran’s mission to the United Nations. While France maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi, it typically takes a quieter approach in the region while maintaining a diplomatic presence in Iran.
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, though Western nations, UN experts and others have traced weaponry ranging from night-vision scopes, rifles and missiles back to Tehran. In November, the US Navy said it found 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among bags of fertilizer aboard a ship bound to Yemen from Iran. Houthi ballistic missile fire has targeted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the past.
Images taken Wednesday by US Central Command, analyzed by the AP, showed a variety of weapons on board an unidentified ship apparently docked at a port. The weapons appeared to include Chinese-made Type 56 rifles, Russian-made Molot AKS20Us and PKM-pattern machine guns. All have appeared in other seizures of weapons attributed to Iran.
Central Command said the seizure included more than 3,000 rifles and 578,000 rounds of ammunition. The released images also showed 23 container-launched anti-tank missiles, which also have turned up in other shipments tied to Iran.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the fighting, including over 14,500 civilians.


Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital
Updated 28 min 2 sec ago

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital
  • 13,000 narcotic pills and 68 packages of cannabis were seized

Dubai:  Jordanian police busted a drugs supply ring in the capital Amman, state news agency PETRA reported.

In the raid 13,000 narcotic pills and 68 packages of cannabis were seized, and four people were arrested, the report added, citing a public security department spokesman.

During the raid one of the suspects opened fire on police, who managed to arrest him with three others.

One other suspect remains at large, the spokesman added.

Three weeks ago Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi in a meeting with Russian President's Special Envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev stressed Jordan focused efforts to prevent the smuggling of drugs from Syria into Jordan, and to bring down drug rings.

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Inside Saudi Arabia's war against the drug destroying lives across the Arab world
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Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge
Updated 02 February 2023

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge
  • Primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible for the attack, says Iran's UN envoy
  • Attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity

DUBAI: Iran blamed Israel for a drone attack on a military factory near the central city of Isfahan, the semi-official ISNA news agency said on Thursday, vowing revenge for what appeared to be the latest episode in a long-running covert war.
The attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity and its supply of arms — including long-range “suicide drones” — for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as months of anti-government demonstrations at home.
In a letter to the UN chief, Iran’s UN envoy, Amir Saeid Iravani, said “primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible” for Saturday night’s attack, which Tehran had said caused no casualties or serious damage.
“Iran reserves its legitimate and inherent right to defend its national security and firmly respond to any threat or wrongdoing of the Zionist regime (Israel) wherever and whenever it deems necessary,” Iravani said in the letter.
“This action undertaken by the Zionist regime (Israel) goes against international law.”
Arch-foe Israel has long said it is willing to strike Iranian targets if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s nuclear or missile programs, but does not comment on specific incidents.
Talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the pact, abandoned by Washington in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear work in return for easing of sanctions.
Iran has accused Israel in the past of planning attacks using agents inside Iranian territory.
In July, Tehran said it had arrested a sabotage team of Kurdish militants working for Israel who planned to blow up a “sensitive” defense industry center in Isfahan.
“The equipment and explosives used in the Isfahan attack were transferred into Iran with the help of anti-revolutionary groups based in Iraq’s Kurdistan region under orders by a foreign security service,” Iran’s Nournews said on Wednesday.
Several nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging in 2021. There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial sites in recent years.


Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles
Updated 02 February 2023

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles
  • The five were given roles at sites and police stations in the Taiz Security Department as part of a security overhaul
  • The appointments were intended to empower women in security roles as part of a push to end the disorder and lawlessness that has plagued Taiz

AL-MUKALLA: Five Yemeni policewomen were appointed to key security posts for the first time in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, sparking excitement among gender equality advocates and the media.

The five were given roles at sites and police stations in the Taiz Security Department as part of a security overhaul that saw the appointment of 12 new security heads, said local officials.

The appointments were intended to empower women in security roles as part of a push to end the disorder and lawlessness that has plagued Taiz for years.

Second Lt. Amera Al-Bukaili, who was recently elevated to the role of deputy director of training for Taiz security, told Arab News that women’s fight for empowerment and senior positions had finally borne fruit.

“I am so delighted today. The appointments have restored a portion of our rights, which is something that should have occurred a long time ago,” she said.

A holder of a master’s degree in social science, Al-Bukaili has almost two decades’ experience in the security field. She was made second lieutenant in 2019, while her male counterparts with similar levels of experience and education were promoted to higher ranks, she added.

“When women hold positions of authority, they will have the capacity to influence and innovate. This is an opportunity to get more rights.”

The appointments have been welcomed by both men and women who have long advocated for the promotion of women to positions of power in the country.

Sara Qassem, a human rights activist from Taiz, characterized the appointments as “special milestones” toward granting women greater rights, urging other Yemeni provinces to follow suit by appointing women to crucial posts.

“We applaud this action, which is in response to efforts to empower women in politics, human rights, security and other areas,” Qassem told Arab News, adding that the move would improve security in Taiz at a time when the city is teetering on the brink of chaos and facing a renewed Houthi siege.

Journalist Zakaria Al-Sharabi agreed, saying that deploying policewomen to key security positions will enable operations in areas that are inaccessible to men due to social barriers. The appointees will also help in combating sexual harassment and other crimes against women, she added.

“Without a doubt, the participation of women in the police force is critical, since many police duties and services, particularly those involving women, children, harassment offenses and juvenile protection need the presence of women,” Zakaria said.

Human rights and gender equality campaigners in Yemen say that women’s rights have been trampled upon and abandoned throughout the country’s civil war, particularly in Houthi-controlled regions, where the militia restricts women’s freedom of movement and other rights.

The Houthis have prohibited women from traveling between Yemeni cities without a male companion or mahram, according to observers in Sanaa.

Women also report that some service departments no longer assist unaccompanied women.

Angela Abu-Asba, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Sanaa, said that a technician at an auto repair shop in Sanaa refused to fix her vehicle because she was unaccompanied by a male guardian.

“He said that women are not permitted to enter without a mahram. Bring your mahram and come. I told him, oppressively and bitterly, that my father was in Ibb and my brother was at work,” Abu-Asba said on Facebook.

She later deleted the social media post over fears of Houthi reprisal, with the militia frequently targeting critics from the public sector and elsewhere.