Point of View

Toukan’s happiness… and Saif’s comfort

By Jumana Ghunaimat

So far, the value of the electricity bill subsidy dropped to a third; instead of the treasury incurring three million dinars a day, the cost of this support fell down to million dinars only.

According to the current indicators, the government expects to solve the fiscal deficit of the national electricity company by the year 2017, when expenditures equal revenues.

Minister of Energy Dr. Ibrahim Saif seems comfortable with those numbers that were achieved as a result of lower oil prices globally, as well as the continuation of some delayed projects, and thus the reduction in the cost of heavy fuel used as an alternative to the Egyptian gas, which we no longer hear anything about; neither from the Jordanian nor the Egyptian side.

The inauguration of the LNG and natural gas port in Aqaba, mid this month, is supposed to be an additional factor contributing to the decline in the electricity subsidy.

The minister, who is happy with the news of a drop in the subsidies bill, but remains calling for further reforms, is the Minister of Finance Dr. Umayya Toukan, who looks to any subsidy in the general budget as a serious distortion that requires treatment at some point; believing in that approach firstly, and secondly implementing the economic reform program signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which ends in the last quarter of this year, to begin implementing a new reform program.

Toukan happiness and Saif’s comfort, then, would be a result of lower electricity subsidies, which means inevitably reducing the public debt bill. It is expected that decrease in this year’s loans will equal the amount of lifted subsidies, in addition to having a positive impact on the deficit of the budget of independent institutions.

Add to that the rise in the official optimism after the implementation of the renewable energy projects; solar and wind, and add to it the stimulation of the production of renewable energy by individuals; which requires reconsidering all instructions governing this matter.

However, despite all these facts and the positive indicators about the possibility of reducing the value of electricity subsidies, the officials did not stop thinking about raising the price of electricity on the segments that still receive this support; a segment that is using less than 600 kilowatts per month. This is what still occupies the mind of the government, which is striving to develop a solution to this great burden.

However, the final decision towards raising the prices or reducing the value of the subsidy for this segment has not yet been made. There is a rejection by the Prime Minister Dr. Abdullah Ensour to the idea of ​​raising the electricity tariff on low-consumption segments; perhaps in an effort by the premier to lose the title of “credit collector” his government has gained since its first day, and to reflect caution when it comes to taking such a step, as opposed to all the government’s previous practices on similar decisions. But all of that without ceasing to try and reduce subsidies further.

The rise in the subsidy bill, specifically electricity, has been repeatedly thrown around by officials. And, surprisingly, the decline in the bill, which is good news for all Jordanians, did not see even one official statement! It is the right of the people, first and foremost, to know the great changes that have taken place on this issue.

The provision of information also stresses transparency, which helps in creating a general understanding of what the government can offer in the future.

Frankly, it is our right as Jordanians to rejoice at the reduction of the electricity bill, just like the government.



This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition

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