Jordan's parliament has approved a $3.2-billion budget for 2001, with spending up 14 percent from a year earlier and a deficit representing six percent of gross domestic product.
The 2.3-billion-dinar budget ($3.243 billion) was approved late Thursday by a vote of 52 out of the 80-member lower house, and with eight abstentions, after three days of debate and a fist fight between two deputies.
Deputies had threatened to vote against the budget if the government went ahead with plans to raise the cost of petrol at the pumps to make up for a shortfall in revenues.
Last week, Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb said petrol prices would remain unchanged "for the moment", justifying the turnaround by the fact that crude prices had dropped since November, when the 2001 budget was planned.
The bulk of the 14 percent spending increase will be devoted to capital investments. The deficit of 380 million dinars (around $535.8 million), which excludes grants, is unchanged from 2000 in GDP terms.
On Thursday Abu Ragheb told parliament the government would try to implement a 12 percent cut in expenditures across the board in response to a recommendation made by parliament's financial committee.
Most of the 67 deputies who spoke during the debate also asked the government to fight "nepotism and corruption". There were also renewed calls for a cut in relations with Israel.
As the debate came to an end Thursday, two MPs traded blows and insults, after accusing each other of making statements undermining national unity.
State television interrupted its live coverage of the session as independent MPs Khalil Attiyeh and Ahmad Al-Abbadi clashed briefly before being separated by their colleagues.
The pair was strongly chastised by Speaker Abdel Hadi Majali, who accused them of "injuring democracy" in Jordan and ordered them to kiss and make up. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )