Sunday, December 11, 2005

Parliament rejects four laws

In what looks like a first in Jordan, parliament today rejected four laws that had been passed as temporary legislation. This rejection has been expected. These laws were passed by the Badran government in its dying hours and days before the parliament was to convene.

Article 94 section I of the Jordanian constitution states that
"In cases where the National Assembly is not sitting or is dissolved, the Council of Ministers has, with the approval of the King, the power to issue provisional laws covering matters which require necessary measures which admit of no delay or which necessitate expenditures incapable of postponement. Such provisional laws, which shall not be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, shall have the force of law, provided that they are placed before the Assembly at the beginning of its next session, and the Assembly may approve or amend such laws. In the event of the rejection of such provisional laws, the Council of Ministers shall, with the approval of the King, immediately declare their nullity, and from the date of such declaration these provisional laws shall cease to have force provided that such nullity shall not affect any contracts or acquired rights."
This section clearly specifies what conditions need to be met before enacting temporary legislation, and these conditions were clearly not met.

Asides from the legal aspects pertaining to the way these laws were enacted, there are troubling questions about the substance of these laws as well.

The State Lands Management amendment in question allows for investors who have been delegated state land to resell after obtaining approval of the council of ministers. The current law only allows resale ten years after the delegation of the land. I believe that the whole issue of delegating state land for investors should be carefully looked at. There is plenty of private property in Jordan that investors can buy. State lands which have been set aside for parks, services or forests should maintain their status. The delegation of a public park in Um Uthaina for a real estate project should have been subject to more scrutiny. I think it was a mistake. Having said that, it makes sense that after these lands have been delegated, then the investors shouldn't have to wait ten years to be able to market their project.

The amendment to the Agriculture Law would redefine the definition of a "tourism project" to mean any productive project that conforms to the nature of the nature of the forest land. Previously, these lands could not delegated to other parties (investors). The amendment would allow for the council of ministers to delegate state forest land to investors in "governorates which need social and economic development in their areas" on condition that "the nature of the area is preserved and the trees are kept or moved to another location". Why should the trees be moved to another location? Shouldn't the project be moved to another location, and the trees kept where they are? Jordan has precious little forest as it is, and the current regulations have not prevented investors from using the Amman National Park or the Ghamadan Park. So, why do we want to give our forests away?

The modification in the Customs Law will disallow or lower the payment of interest to plaintiffs who win cases against the Customs Department. The customs department often overcharges people for what they pass through customs. To redress this, people sue, and as is typical in Jordan, these cases can last many years (the customs department makes sure that it last so long that people will not bother to try and get their money back). Of course, since intrests that accrue are large, the government does not want to pay. So, the amendment halves the amount of interest paid, and only calculates interest from the time of rendering of the verdict in court, instead of from when the law suit was initiated. So, instead of solving the problem by not overcharging people and not dragging the court cases forever, the amendment would again penalize the people who were aggrieved in the first place.

The gem is the Income Tax Law. The new modification in the law will increase the lower bracket from 5% to 10% of income exceeding a personal deduction of 8000 dinars. The personal deduction is increased but most other deductions will be eliminated. For the rich, the upper income bracket was lowered from 25% to 20%. Thus, the law is a gift to the rich, and a greater burden on the middle class. Typical.

Thus, all of these laws are designed to help the rich get richer, and to shift more of the tax burden to the poor. I hope that the parliament lives up to its duties and either insists on rejecting these laws or on severely modifying them, despite any threats they may receive.


At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you. These laws should not be permitted, God if I were king I would fire the people who came up with them.

I was especially furious about the ammendment to the income tax law. I personally think our income tax brackets are already not high enough at the highest income levels. I think instead of lowering taxes on the highest bracket, another one or two higher brackets should be created with tax rates in the range of 30-40%.

I also hope that the parliament lives up to its duty and insists on rejecting these laws, or like you said severely modifying them, especially the income tax law.

At 5:28 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hi Hamzeh: Actually, the king did fire them :), although I doubt it was for this reason.

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I was under the impression that it was this government that put forward these ammendments.

I think our tax brackets should be changed to something more like this:

5% for the first JD2000
10% for the next JD4000
20% for the next JD8000
30% for the next JD16000
40% for the rest

Whoever falls in the 30% or 40% brackets shouldn't have problems affording a very decent living in Jordan. And this will increase the government's collected tax money.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hamzeh, dude I read your tax proposal over at mahjoob and although it's clever it won't work, but I'm guessing you already now why.

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hamzeh: The revenue that will be derived from this will go to more waste, not more services.


At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nas, actually I don't know why :p do you mean that the rich people will evade taxes with their "was6a"?

Regardless of that, to me having the problem of people who don't pay taxes, is better than having the problem of ALL people not paying the right taxes.

And regardless of the concern Khalaf raised, I think this change is the only one that makes sense if our country is to move forward with reforms and its fight against corruption.

Our road to diminished corruption and fully matured reform does not take one step, it takes many many steps, and throughout the way we probably won't be able to asses our current status as "success", but nonetheless we have to take these steps one by one. I think this is the step to take regarding the income tax law, and I believe it is a required step.

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hamzeh, lets continue this on mahjoob. with no disrespect to khalaf its just simply and technically to post there on an already started discussion.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger moi said...

looks like the Jordanian government is following in the footsteps of the Bush cuts for the rich, as if Jordanians need more of this!

p.s. interesting blog

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Khadder said...

Hamzeh and Khalaf, yes the king fire them but surely not for this reason since the next government insisted on presenting them to the Parliament as temporary laws. And I agree, why not you be a king? or a presedent, I think you should think about that. We need an elected government in Jordan.


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