New bills inch towards political reform

lower house
Lower House (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — In a session held in the Lower House on Wednesday, lawmakers discussed three bills, referring two of them to joint committees and returning the third law to the government.اضافة اعلان

 At the beginning of the session, representatives discussed the municipalities and decentralization bill for the year 2021 and voted to refer it to a joint administrative and legal committee.

Stressing how important the bill is, MP Yanal Freihat said that “it is part of the political reform laws.”

Deputy Khair Abu Saelik agreed with Freihat on the bill’s importance, adding that it is “a step towards the political reform that we demand.”

However, Raed Smerat, a member of the House’s Legal Committee, criticized the law. "This cannot be considered as decentralizing. Today, if I wanted to complete a transaction in the Department of Land and Survey, for example, I would wait for three days for a response from Amman. Decentralization means that the decision is taken without referring to a main center,” he said.

The deputy stressed that he will work from within the Legal Committee to which the law was transferred to reform this law.

The Lower House also discussed the Aqaba Special Economic Zone bill for the year 2021, and voted to send it to a joint committee of the finance and economy and investment committees. Several MPs said that this law will disrupt investment in Aqaba and harm the economy.

Abu Saelik, a proponent of the bill, disputed the claim by some MPs that the law will affect investment, saying “I think that they did not understand the law properly.”

Finance Minister Mohamad Al-Ississ confirmed that “there is no change in the tax and customs rates in the Aqaba Special Economic Zone.” During the Parliament session, he said that it is not permissible to have two parties in the same country that deal with tax and customs, as this matter opens the door to tax and customs avoidance. He added that the aim of the bill is to facilitate investors and streamline the process to one party instead of two.

Ississ added that there have been clear cases where parties took advantage of the duplication of the tax and customs administration for illegal purposes. He indicated that the government had listened to the requests of the representatives about the importance of providing the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority with revenues that meet its need, which is the reason for raising its revenues to reach 40 percent instead of 25 percent.

The final bill reviewed by the Lower House was the money exchange bill, which lawmakers referred back to the government. The bill would increase the fine and prison term for those caught transferring money without a license.

Opinions among the deputies were split, with MP Abu Saelik saying that the bill would affect investment. "The law increases penalties for crimes that are already punishable by law," so it is redundant, he argued. He further added that investment in Jordan needs to be encouraged, not further penalized.

Deputy Hussein Al-Harassis disagreed. “The penalties should be tougher for crimes related to this law, since it seems that the penalties in the original law are not enough” to deter violations.

Defending the government’s position, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Mahmoud al-Kharabsheh said that the money exchange bill is not intended to discourage investment or restrict investors, but rather to encourage the investment environment.

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