Supply ministry reintroduction causes controversy in Jordan

Published April 3rd, 2013 - 02:35 GMT
Jordan's decision to reintroduce a supply portfolio in the newly formed government is being criticised by trade bodies.
Jordan's decision to reintroduce a supply portfolio in the newly formed government is being criticised by trade bodies.

The merchants and consumers advocacy body [in Jordan] believe that the reintroduction of the supply portfolio in the newly-formed government is just a ‘useless’ message to appease the public.

The resurfacing of the supply portfolio, which was added to the Ministry of Trade and Industry was one of the key features of the new Cabinet, which took oath Saturday.

The supply ministry was cancelled in 1998 as part of the free-market policy the Kingdom is adopting.

President of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Nael Kabariti insists that there is no need for re-establishing such a ministry because it violates the essential principle of free market.

Meanwhile, head of the Consumer Protection Society (CPS), Mohammad Obeidat, believes that authorities are not serious about addressing issues related to rising living costs of Jordanians.

“Is there a clear strategy for the new portfolio or is it just to placate the street?”  Kabariti asked in a telephone interview with The Jordan Times.

“I think the move is of no use and mere lip service,” he added.  

The JCC head explained that before it was cancelled, the mission of the supply ministry was to focus on three issues; strategic reserves of basic commodities, control prices in the market and oversee subsidies. Kabariti added that since over the past 15 years no shortage in any commodities have been recorded, authorities can no longer impose a price cap, noting that the government has lifted subsidies on most items.

“Therefore, there is no need for such a ministry,” Kabariti said, saying that prices of essential goods in Jordan are lower than its neighbours.

Obeidat agreed with Kabariti’s assessment, but said that there should be an independent government body –– not part of the Ministry of Trade and Industry — whose main task is to protect consumers from price manipulation by providers.

But the consumer activists disagreed with the JCC chief’s remarks over the free market economic policy, noting that in Western countries such as France and Denmark, there are ministries and independent government bodies in charge of overseeing consumers affairs.

In a statement emailed to The Jordan Times, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Hatem Halawani said the government will start to prepare legal requirements to regulate the ministry’s work after adding the supply portfolio to its tasks.

Protecting consumers, maintaining price stability and monitoring the local market will top the ministry’s priorities, Halawani added.

The supply portfolio, along with the new consumer protection draft law, which is currently at the Lower House, will boost official efforts to control the market in terms of prices and quality of products, he said in the statement.

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