Bad tasting medicine necessary for Jordan, PM says
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Saturday said if the government had not lifted fuel subsidies at the right time, the alternative would have a worse impact on the Jordanian economy.
He made the statement during a meeting with correspondents of international news agencies in Jordan at the Prime Ministry, adding that “any other decision would not have solved the short-term economic challenges Jordan is facing”.
Ensour said the decision could not have been delayed until the parliamentary elections, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
“Had we waited until then, the economic consequences would have been much worse on Jordanians.”
The premier said the decision should have been taken two years ago. “Had it been taken then, the budget deficit would not have been this huge,” he said, adding that the Arab Spring was the reason previous governments did not take the decision earlier.
The premier detailed the financial situation of the Kingdom and the “huge” deficit in the budget, which has reached a critical point.
Ensour said that social developments and the increase in the population in light of the limited resources led to expenditures increasing above revenues, Petra reported.
He added that the continuous subsidies of various goods contributed to increasing the deficit until it surpassed the safe limits.
The prime minister said: “Due to my experience, and my work at Parliament, I stood at the solid facts regarding the financial and economic situation of the country.”
“I never realised, however, that it was this bad.”
He pointed out that the cut in Egyptian gas supplies caused the National Electric Power Company to lose around JD1.7 billion, as it was forced to rely on heavy oil and diesel instead of natural gas.
The premier said the government was subsidising oil derivatives at a cost of around JD800 million. He pointed out that cooking gas cylinders are still subsidised, as their actual cost is JD12.
He said the government buys most of the oil from Saudi Arabia, at current international rates, adding that the government did not get any aid from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries during the current year, save for a $250 million deposit by the Kuwaiti government, allocated to development projects.
Ensour emphasised that there is no way to reverse the decision to lift subsidies, explaining that the government hopes the Jordanian people will understand the logic behind this decision.
He said that “nationalism means taking decisions, not running away from them”.
The premier reiterated that “our national priorities are preserving stability and security, bettering the economic situation and maintaining our good relations with our neighbouring countries”.
Ensour said there are currently no indications that outsiders had a hand in some demonstrations but said that two Syrians were found participating in a protest in one of the governorates.
He praised most of the demonstrations that took place on Friday, calling them “civilised and peaceful”.
“Jordan has witnessed around 6,600 demonstrations since the beginning of the Arab Spring, and the police have been role models in the way they dealt with them and protected them.”
The premier reiterated that the measures taken by the government will protect around 73 per cent of Jordanians, adding that securing the governmental aid for those earning less than JD800 a month will be easy and straightforward.
Ensour pointed out that the aid will continue, and will be cashed immediately, as long as the price per oil barrel remains more than $100.
He also pointed to measures undertaken by the government to control public spending, in addition to merging and dissolving independent government agencies to reduce expenditures and debts.
In reply to a question on the upcoming parliamentary elections, Ensour said the polls, slated for January 23, 2013, will not be postponed.
The premier concluded that corruption cases will be referred to court if there is enough evidence. He pointed to the fact that the Anti-Corruption Commission sent 80 cases of suspected corruption to courts this year.