[Jordan's] Minister of Industry and Trade Hatem Halawani on Thursday said that the estimated cost of subsidising wheat and barley on the Treasury this year is around JD290 million ($410 million), based on the current international prices.
At a meeting with the Lower House Economic and Financial Committee to discuss the ministry’s financial allocations in the 2013 state budget draft law, Halawani remarked that the government needs to subsidise bread to keep its price at JD0.16 per kilo, a strategy followed since 1993.
According to a ministry statement, Halawani told MPs that the real cost of subsidised flour is JD390 ($521) per tonne, while it is sold to bakeries at JD32.7 ($44) per tonne.
The minister indicated that the ministry has intensified its monitoring measures on bakeries to combat illegal uses of the subsidised flour.
Stressing that local market’s stability tops the government’s priorities, the official noted that studies show that in the aftermath of the government’s decision to lift fuel subsidies in mid-November , prices of the majority of basic commodities remained the same, with some even seeing a drop in their prices.
The recent increase in the prices of some essential items is blamed on hikes on global markets, the minister said, noting that the country imports the bulk of its foodstuff needs.
According to Halawani, prices of 26 commodities went down, while the cost of 13 others increased, and this rise did not exceed 4 per cent at worst.
He added that the Cabinet has recently endorsed a draft law on consumer protection to safeguard the people’s right to affordable and good-quality commodities and services.
Halawani, also minister of information and communications technology, briefed lawmakers on the economic reforms taken by the government to boost the economy, reduce the budget deficit and restrain public debt.
Economic policies also seek to combat poverty and employment, in addition to addressing flaws caused by the swelling energy bill, which according to Halawani, constitutes around 20 per cent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product.
The minister said economic growth is expected to reach 3 per cent this year.
Halawani, however, also highlighted positive economic indicators, citing a growing confidence in the Jordanian dinar, whose status has improved. He noted that deposits on the dinar were up by JD600 million ($848 million) so far this year, compared to last year, adding that remittances by Jordanians  abroad also saw a 6.1 per cent increase in January, compared to the same month last year.