Towards a separate budget for refugees
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