National affairs committee calls for softening debt laws

The Jordanian Committee for National Affairs staged a sit-in on Saturday, calling for amending the Implementation Law, which deals with loan defaulters’ imprisonment in Jordan.

The committee held the sit-in on the grounds that an article of the law “contradicts” international treaties that the Kingdom has adopted, according to Tareq Abu Alragheb, a Jordanian lawyer and regular attendee of committee meetings.

The committee claims that the current legislation does not conform to Article 22 of the Vienna Convention and other covenants calling for the preservation of individual rights, the lawyer said.

Given that the number of citizens unable to pay back their loans has reached 300,000, the committee deemed it necessary to clarify the legislation on this issue, Alragheb told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

“There are multiple models and solutions which fit our country, therefore alternatives to imprisonment must be created,” the lawyer stressed, noting that the first step is to increase control on the issuance of chequebooks.

Several citizens wanted for writing bounced cheques and failing to pay debts have fled the Kingdom seeking a new start in Turkey, Georgia and other countries, the lawyer noted, adding that many of them are unable to return to the Kingdom following a regulation issued by the Ministry of Interior that prevents passport renewal for Jordanians with unpaid debts.

One of the leading causes for debt is the proliferation of lending and financing companies, which grant citizens loans at high interest rates — up to 40 per cent — without oversight from an entity such as the Central Bank of Jordan, Alragheb said.

The committee hopes to amend the penal code for the imprisonment of loan defaulters to include delineation between fraud cases and other loan issues, he said.

“Rigid measures should not be imposed on citizens who could not pay back loans due to the challenging economic conditions,” he added.

There must be an instant and radical solution for the problem, which has displaced many families from their homes, committee member Mohammad Zawahda told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

Incarceration costs for the government are more than JD750 monthly per person, Zawahda noted, adding that the “optimal solution” is to help debtors pay off their debts by offering them consolidation loans at low interest rates.

The committee also recently launched an initiative titled “Faza Musamih”, which aims to alleviate debt-stress by encouraging creditors to waive their loans, he said.

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