A majority of Jordanian deputies have submitted a petition to the house speaker urging the government to go back on a decision to raise the price of petrol (gasoline) next year, one of the deputies told AFP Monday.
"Forty-seven deputies out of the 80-strong lower house signed the petition asking the government to refrain from raising the price of petrol," Mahmud Kharabshe, an independent MP, told AFP.
The petition was submitted to the head of the chamber of deputies on Sunday on the eve of the start of a parliamentary debate on the 2001 budget.
"Our action will be through our vote in parliament on the budget. The government cannot take any steps (to raise the price of petrol) without the approval of the deputies or else it will fall," he said.
"Our vote will be considered a vote of confidence for the government," he added. The petition, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, argues that any increase will be a burden for cash-strapped Jordanians.
"The financial condition of the people cannot bear an increase because a rise in the price of petrol will be followed by a rise in the price of services and products," said the petition.
Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb told parliament Sunday that the government was ready to discuss the proposed increase with parliament's financial committee.
Finance Minister Michel Marto last week unveiled the 2001 budget to parliament and said it will entail an increase in the price of petrol to help make up for a 180-million-dinar (around $253 million ) shortfall.
The budget is estimated at 2.3 billion dinars (around $3.243 billion) or 14 percent more than the 2000 budget, with a deficit of 380 million dinars (around $535.8 million), excluding grants, Marto said.
A senior government official said petrol hikes will be followed by a rise in the cost of taxi fares and public transport, with prices to be announced early next year.
He linked the shortfall to the increase in the cost of oil bought from Iraq, which went up from $13.5 per barrel in 1999 to around $22.
The government will absorb 80 million dinars ($ 113 million) of the shortfall leaving 100 million dinars to be accounted for.
The government is determined "not to increase the cost of fuel oil, diesel, gas, water or electricity" that touch all the population but must bring up the already low price of petrol to international market standards, he said.
Jordan signed an agreement with Iraq in November to buy five million tonnes of crude oil and petroleum products in 2001, half of it free of charge and the other half at preferential rates.
Jordanians spend around seven dollars for 20 liters of regular petrol and around 10 for super.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )