Jordanian finance ministry forecasts balanced budget by 2004
The government intends to lower the budget deficit by one percentage point of the GDP annually for the next three years, forecasting, with the help of foreign aid funds, a balanced budget in the year 2004, said a Finance Ministry official.
“By 2004 we foresee a 3 percent deficit of the GDP which would almost equal the foreign aid expected to be pumped into the treasury,” said Mohammad Abu Hammour, Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance.
Speaking at the opening session of a training course on Tax Analysis and Revenue Forecasting, Abu Hammour added that the government projects achieving a surplus after the 2004 fiscal year, which would then be used for debt servicing and thus reduce the Kingdom's debt at a faster rate.
By the end of last November, the Kingdom's internal public debt stood at JD1.1 billion, while its external public debt was estimated at JD4.7 billion.
Although the IMF-guided economic adjustment program will conclude at the end of 2001, Abu Hammour said the government is committed to continue reforms without the global body's help.
Some economists have voiced concern that the Jordanian government might not be decisive in pushing forward economic reform independently of outside prodding, at which case they might be forced to return knocking at the IMF's door.
In response to a question on the accuracy of the Finance Ministry's forecasts, Abu Hammour claimed they are 90 percent accurate.
But he did concede there is a deviation problem between budgeted and actual figures in revenue calculations.
He explained potential differences to changes made to laws after the budget is endorsed and in consequence alters the forecast.
As an example, Abu Hammour explained, the government's decision last year to exempt some 800 industrial raw materials from customs duties deprived state coffers of some JD50 million in budgeted revenues.
In past statements, Finance Minister Michel Marto has partly attributed the shortfall in year 2000 projected revenues to a drop in customs taxes.
The minister noted that government revenues dropped by JD195 million which forced it to reduce both capital and current expenditure.
The two-week course, organized by German Technical Corporation (GTZ), seeks to upgrade analytical skills in the fiscal field and improve methods of revenue forecasting and collection.
Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Income Tax Department and the Customs Department. — ( Jordan Times )
By Rana Awwad
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)