(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The Lower House on Tuesday gave the government 10 days to revisit the new electricity tariffs with its Energy and Mineral Resources Committee and come up with an alternative to face the country's rising energy bill.
Also yesterday, a majority of MPs voted in favour of postponing discussion of a memorandum signed by 44 deputies to conduct a vote of no confidence in Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Qutaiba Abu Qura until after the 10-day period.
Most of the 100 deputies who took the podium during yesterday's special session on the recent increase in electricity prices criticised the "unreasonable, unfair and badly timed" new tariffs claiming that they have placed an unfair burden on financially troubled citizens.
Acknowledging the difficult financial situation the government is facing, other MPs urged the government to annul the new pricing system, suggesting alternatives to address the "unparalleled" increase in the energy bill.
"The government should immediately cancel the new electricity tariffs and discuss other alternatives with the House energy panel," Zarqa Deputy Bassam Haddadin said.
The government should have taken into consideration the "social costs" of its recent decision to raise electricity prices, MP Mustafa Shneikat (Balqa, 1st District) argued, seconding Haddidin's recommendation to refer the file to the Energy Committee and come up with alternatives.
Southern Badia MP Awad Zawaideh said several citizens have been complaining of unreasonable rises in their energy bills, charging that "an uninhabited house got a JD40 electricity bill".
"The government must immediately stop the new tariff system otherwise many social problems will arise and even those who have been silent, showing solidarity with the state, will take to the streets to express their outrage," Zawaideh said.
Deputies Fawaz Zu'bi (Irbid, 4th District), Anwar Ajarmeh (Amman, 7th District) and Mohammad Halaiqa (Amman, 2nd District) suggested alternatives for the government to face its financial difficulties.
Zu'bi said taxes on banks and wealthy firms operating in the Kingdom could be increased.
"The government can stop the excessive lighting of streets," Ajarmeh suggested, while Halaiqa urged the government to impose a "gradual increase" in electricity bills.
Jerash and Irbid deputies Mohammad Zreiqat and Akef Meqbel expressed suspicion over the repeated attacks on the Arab Gas Pipeline carrying Egyptian gas to the Kingdom, wondering if such an act is "meant to subjugate Jordan and increase its financial troubles".
Responding to deputies' remarks, Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh repeated the government's contention that the new tariff has not affected 92 per cent of Jordanian households, who consume 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or less per month.
Describing the new tariff as "carefully prepared", he noted that the new pricing has undergone intensive scrutiny, which showed that between 82 and 92 per cent of households would not be affected throughout the year.
"The percentage goes down during winter and summer as a result of heavy electricity consumption," the premier said.
Noting that the government has no problem with reviewing the new pricing mechanism with the House Energy Committee, Khasawneh pointed out that his Cabinet has set up a strategic plan to handle the energy dilemma and encourage rational consumption of electricity through steps such as turning off street lights, decreasing the electricity consumption of public agencies, moving ahead with renewable energy projects and touring Arab states to discuss the possibility of alleviating the country's energy difficulties.