The Lower House on Sunday opened a debate on the draft 2015 state budget and the budgets of governmental units, estimated at JD6.1 billion and projecting a deficit of JD688 million while envisaging tighter spending.
During today's session, chaired by Speaker Atef Tarawneh and attended by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and cabinet ministers, MP after MP took the floor to record their observations on the draft budget and air their views about domestic and regional challenges.
Lawmaker Mahmoud al Kharabsheh was the first to address the chamber, criticising the draft as "unrealistic, timid and losing the resilience to absorb economic growth." He said the citizen is tired of the "heavy economic burdens, while the government only offers vocal promises to improve livelihoods," urging action to curb soaring prices by forcing producers to ensure that the steep drop in oil prices is reflected on the prices of basic consumer commodities.
Deputy Raed Khalayleh questioned the government's ability to achieve budgetary figures, citing an exaggeration in estimating revenues, including JD1.1 billion in foreign grants, and a portion of the public expenditures.
He spoke of the "urgent need" for the government to re-evaluate revenues in line with real oil price estimates.
The lawmakers' remarks focused on building a united internal front "in this critical stage of the country's history," urging citizens to rise above differences and shun rumors. Some proposed increasing the budgets of the armed forces and security agencies, the shield of the country.
MP Mufleh Khza'leh labeled the draft as "nothing new" and said it did not respond to the difficult economic challenges "the country is passing through," citing a rising foreign debt.
Energy has the lion's share of the budget as the bulk of the country's energy needs are imported from abroad and the high energy bill had placed a huge strain on the budget and sent the deficit soaring.
Legislators called for expediting energy projects and opening the vital sector to foreign investment and also putting the focus on financing small enterprises to "turn citizens from recipients of aid to producers contributing to growth." The National Coalition Bloc, grouping five political parties, expressed fears that spending controls would adversely reflect on the quality of public services and that a reduction in capital expenditures could lead to contraction amid "clear indications of defects in the national economy." The Democratic Assembly party said a growing budget deficit was the country's biggest worry as it had largely relied on foreign aid, both grants and loans, which, it said, would increase debt that had soared to unprecedented levels.
Other lawmakers called for better services to improve living conditions in underprivileged regions during today's session, the first in a lengthy debate which will continue in the next days.