Jordan’s lower house of parliament will begin a special session to discuss the deteriorating financial status and administrative shortcomings of the country's municipalities. "The municipalities have reached a critical point where many of them are unable to offer services to citizens," said Deputy Munir Sobar, the Lower House Financial and Economic Committee rapporteur.
As if that was not enough, some municipalities are unable also to pay the outstanding salaries of their employees, he added. The municipalities are saddled with huge debts totaling some JD80 million ($112.5 million).
The deputy suggested that some municipalities merge in order to help reduce expenses. "On Wednesday, lawmakers are likely to ask the government to submit a draft law to merge some municipalities," said Deputy Mohammad Azaydeh, head of the Public Freedoms and Citizens Rights Committee.
According to Sobar, citizens owe the Kingdom's 328 municipalities more than JD100 million. "There should be a mechanism of collecting the outstanding [fees] of citizens to the municipalities," he said.
Some officials have contended that municipality mayors overlook to compel municipal employees to collect dues as a way to win votes in the municipal elections. The municipalities' huge debts, according to Deputy Raed Bakri, are due, among other reasons, to mismanagement, especially a poor employment policy.
To ease the financial shortfalls of the municipalities, namely the employees' salaries, deputies may ask the government to allocate around JD10 million out of the national budget. "There is a recommendation in the annual state budget to subsidize the municipalities. The JD10 million will be a swift solution," Sobar said.
The deputies will pressure the government to reschedule the municipalities' debts, Azaydeh said. The municipalities' financial situation is aggravated by the fact that the Cities and Villages Development Bank has recently denied loans to pay municipal employees' wages because of the municipalities' consistent failure to make good on their debts.
The bank was launched to help municipalities invest in the services sector, however, over the last few years it was compelled to pay the employees' salaries due to the municipalities' financial shortfalls. In the process, the bank's own resources were depleted. Municipal employees number around 15,000. — ( Jordan Times )
By Khalid Dalal
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )