The Jordanian government has postponed plans to hike fuel prices after deputies managed to tighten up the capital expenditure item in the 2001 budget to make up for a shortfall of JD100 million in revenues, reported the Jordan Times newspaper, quoting a senior government official as saying.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb announced that the government will delay increasing the prices of petroleum products.
The government decision was apparently taken to quell public anxiety over the rising cost of living, said the paper.
The government “will not take any decision concerning this issue except within the framework of a thorough study of the living conditions of the Jordanian people as well as world fuel prices,” Abu Ragheb was quoted by the paper as telling Jordan Television.
“Recent press reports about the government's intention to raise fuel prices are inaccurate and led to rumors, which created public apprehension, prompting several opposition parties to launch attacks against the government based on these rumors which were politically motivated,” the prime minister added.
“In this kind of atmosphere irresponsible people resorted to hiking the price of gas cylinders and some gas stations stopped selling fuel products, which necessitated the government's interference to control the situation,” Abu Ragheb said.
Last month, senior officials repeatedly said that the government had no choice but to hike the price of oil products to reduce the deficit in the 2001 budget, according to the daily.
The official source said the deficit resulted from the renewal of the annual fuel protocol with Iraq, whereby the rise in the price per barrel Jordan is to pay its eastern neighbor would mean a deficit of JD180 million.
According to the paper, the increase brought the price per barrel of Iraqi fuel, which Jordan receives at preferential rates of around $19 to just over $21 per barrel.
The government, said the daily, indicated that it will shoulder JD80 million of that deficit, while the remaining JD100 million should be raised by hiking fuel prices.
Last week, the government announced plans to raise fuel prices for non-Jordanian aircraft and vessels refueling in the kingdom.
The increase will go into effect Monday, said the paper.
Meanwhile, the government official dismissed speculation that Jordan's decision to postpone the price hike was made following pressure from Iraq which, according to such speculation, demanded that the government refrain from undertaking such a decision, said the Jordan Times.
“Jordan is a sovereign state and does not accept any pressure from any party. Our decision has nothing to do with any foreign state,” the official said.
The government reported plans to hike fuel prices drew criticism from the lower house, where at least 43 lawmakers signed a petition demanding that the government refrain from taking such a decision, said the paper -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )