To­wards a sep­a­rate bud­get for refugees

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

AFAHED FANEK CCORDING to the re­cent cen­sus, non-Jorda ni­ans who live in Jordan cal­cu­late to 3 mil­lion, of which around 50 per cent are Syr­ian refugees, half of them liv­ing in camps.

Strange enough, this sub­stan­tial com­mu­nity did not have an im­pact on any of the na­tional ac­counts and eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors, as if they lived, worked and con­sumed off­shore or in a closed zone.

One does not know how the Syr­ian refugees, who make up 13.3 per cent of the over­all pop­u­la­tion, did not have an im­pact or cause any change in the vol­ume and val­ues of im­ports, con­sump­tion, pro­duc­tion, for­eign and Arab grants, cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture of the bud­get, money sup­ply and cost of sub­si­dies, etc.

The trend of all the above-men­tioned in­di­ca­tors con­tin­ued dur­ing the past four years, busi­ness as usual, as if one-and-a-half-mil­lion Syr­ian refugees did not ex­ist.

Per capita in­come is still cal­cu­lated by di­vid­ing the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct into what we thought was the num­ber of pop­u­la­tion be­fore the cen­sus, i.e., less than 7 mil­lion, in­stead of the ac­tual 9.4 mil­lion, a painful drop of around 30 per cent.

One may won­der what is the value of a 2.5 per cent growth of the economy if the pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing at the rate of 8 per cent a year.

In or­der for us to un­der­stand the pub­lished fig­ures and in­di­ca­tors that shed light on the eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, some an­swers should be of­fered to cer­tain ques­tions:

— Are re­ceived grants, which are given specif­i­cally to cater for the Syr­ian refugees in Jordan, in­cluded in the cen­tral gov­ern­ment bud­get among for­eign grants or placed in a spe­cial fund to spend on the refugees needs which the grants are meant to help?

— When ma­te­rial aid such as food, medicine, equip­ment, tents and car­a­vans are re­ceived for the use of Syr­ian refugees, are they in­cluded in the im­ports statis­tics or spent di­rectly, away from cus­toms records?

— When tens of thou­sands of Syr­ian refugees are en­gaged in cer­tain jobs are such jobs in­cluded in the job-cre­ation rubric or are they left as part of the black mar­ket, free of re­stric­tions and records?

— When the gov­ern­ment spends mil­lions of di­nars on the in­fra­struc­ture of the Syr­ian refugees camps are these amounts ac­counted for in the cur­rent or cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture, or not at all?

It is high time to es­tab­lish a sep­a­rate bud­get for the Syr­ian refugee ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing rev­enues in the form of for­eign grants and di­rect and in­di­rect ex­pen­di­ture, in­clud­ing sub­sidised bread, wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and the cost of ad­min­is­tra­tion, se­cu­rity, ed­u­ca­tion and health.

The need for a sep­a­rate bud­get for Syr­ian refugees’ fi­nan­cial af­fairs is be­com­ing more ur­gent af­ter the Lon­don Donors’ Con­fer­ence, which has com­mit­ted big amounts in the form of grants and soft loans, of which noth­ing has been re­ceived so far.

When for­eign grants are given for spe­cific pur­poses, the donor coun­try would like to see how the funds were ac­tu­ally spent. Trans­parency in this case is badly needed. —Cour­tesy: TJT

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