PM outlines gov't policies, says tax hikes not the answer to budget deficit | Jordan News | Ammon News

PM outlines gov't policies, says tax hikes not the answer to budget deficit

[6/19/2018 5:04:34 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Tuesday outlined his government's domestic policies for the next stage and said slower economic growth and budget deficit cannot be offset by "arbitrary" tax hikes.

In his first press conference after taking office, the prime minister said his government's first priority will be reducing public expenditure, adding that the minister of finance has prepared a report proposing a JOD150-million reduction in government spending for the current year.

Speaking on the draft income tax law, Razzaz said the bill had been withdrawn from the parliament and an all-encompassing dialogue on the draft and the overall tax burden will be launched. With regard to a partial exemption of custom fees on hybrid cars the former government scrapped earlier this year, Razzaz said the minister of finance will make a statement about this issue next week after conducting dialogue with stakeholders.

On the monthly pricing mechanism of oil derivatives, the premier said: "We understand that the citizens feel that they don't know how the pricing of oil derivatives is calculated," adding that the citizen has the right to know the components of this mechanism, which includes three main parts: the price of oil, the costs of transport, storage and tax, which significantly varies according to oil derivatives types.

The prime minister underlined the right of the citizen to know these components and to understand how higher oil prices in global markets reflect on fuel prices here at home.

"If we want to follow a new approach, we have to answer these questions and respect the Jordanian citizen's mind," he said during the conference attended by State Minister for Media Affairs, Jumana Ghneimat.

Razzaz pointed out that the Cabinet has approved a number of decisions and measures that will be implemented during the coming period, among which is the amendments to the civil service system.

In this regard, the prime minister said he had directed the Minister of Public Sector Development and the Civil Service Bureau to take all observations on the system and reconsider them.

"We are confident that the public sector employee is fulfilling his duty when he receives training, support, encouragement and incentives, while applying the principle of reward and punishment," he said, stressing that the public sector can be creative.

The premier said one of the topics that has recently been raised is the suffering of cancer patients, pointing out that the Health Minister is looking into issue and there is clear guidance that the dignity of the patient is the first priority.

He added that a card for each cancer patient will be issued instead of the current bureaucratic procedure which requires the patient to check with the al-Bashir Hospital and then be referred to medical committees.

He explained that the new procedure entails that the patient shall be directly referred from the hospital in his area of residence to the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) or university and medical services hospitals as needed.

Turning to another issue, the prime minister said the government has received many observations about private schools and the unjustified increase in fees without raising teachers' salaries, stressing that the government is in the process of issuing a system to license these schools that would regulate and control school fee hikes.

The new system will require schools to deposit teachers' salaries with banks or through an electronic portfolio at the Central Bank, to ensure that minimum wages are met and that teachers are not denied wages in the summer.

On ministers' pension, Razzaz said it is not accepted that the minister obtains a life-long pension for a service of two or three months, while the employee works for decades to obtain a pension, stressing that he has given directions to reconsider the civil retirement law, especially ministers' pension.

The prime minister pointed out that the new government's approach entails enhanced communication on more than one level.

He called on each minister whose ministry has a direct contact with the citizen to build bridges of dialogue on policies, measure impact, evaluate programs and receive important observations presented by young people and interact with them.

He said all ministers who are members of boards of directors or companies have resigned from such entities.

Razzaz emphasized that "financial disclosure must become a culture and we must reach a stage where we can be held accountable in the government in case the wealth of the prime minister or any minister increases".

He stressed the need for a code of conduct to be adhered to by the prime minister and the ministerial team, noting that this code will be issued next week and signed by each minister who will abide by it.

He said reducing costs and upgrading services require restructuring ministries, government institutions and independent bodies, stressing that the minister should be responsible for his sector.

"We will study the impact of institutions on services provided to citizens," Razzaz noted, indicating that employees at these institutions will not be dismissed and the goal is to improve the quality of performance and service provided.

On Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner's visits to Jordan, Razzaz said both visits focused on Jordan's firm position on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the international legitimacy's resolutions as the only way for peace, emphasizing on the Kingdom's role in safeguarding Jerusalem's holy sites.

He added that the meeting with Netanyahu touched on the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal project, which Jordan greatly relies on, in addition to trade exchange with the State of Palestine.

He said the government is open to studying the subject of the "General Pardon" in accordance with rules that preserve the rights of everyone in this regard.

He also pointed out that Jordan decides its economic measures and that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been invited by Jordan to check on its financial policies and reassure donor countries in terms of the Kingdom's ability to repay through proposals it presents, but the final decision remains a sovereign and national one.

He indicated that the government's support issuing a code of conduct for media professionals that addresses abuses and promotes freedom of opinion and expression.

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