For Poor Jordanians, Debt Trap Is Often A Prison Cell
Muhammad Irfan 1 month ago Fri 25th June 2021 | 08:50 AM
Amman, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 25th Jun, 2021 ) :Cash-strapped and struggling to care for his two disabled children, Mohammad Sabha took out a loan. Now he fears ending up in a Jordanian prison because he can't repay it.
He would join thousands already behind bars for similar infractions in the kingdom, where debt law is draconian and disproportionately punishes the poor.
"This is one of the most serious social problems in the kingdom," said Jordanian economist Musa al-Saket of the Phenix Center for Economics and Informatics Studies in Amman.
Jordanians in financial trouble can't resort to declaring personal bankruptcy.
The 43-year-old father has a job in a factory making aluminium products and his wife works in a cleaning service. Together they make about 650 dinars ($930) a month, which barely covers their expenses.
In a country where only civil servants and pensioners have health insurance, Mohammad is burdened with grinding debt.
"To take care of our children, we have borrowed 12,000 dinars over the past five years from five credit institutions," he said.
"We are harassed by creditors who have gone to court. Today, we are desperate.
" - Jailed for bad cheques - Sabha has already been in prison over unpaid debt, and he says the only reason he is free right now is the Covid-19 pandemic.
The public health crisis led the government to declare a moratorium in March on prison sentences until the end of the year, a temporary reprieve that only applies to people with debts below 100,000 dinars ($141,000).
"The law needs to be revised because imprisonment benefits neither the creditor nor the debtor," he said.
"What is his benefit if he puts me in jail? Who will take care of my sick children?" In a report in March, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said more than a quarter of a million Jordanians are currently facing legal claims of defaulting on their debts.
About 16 percent of the prison population, or around 2,630 inmates, were behind bars for unpaid loans and writing bad cheques in 2019, it said.
"In many cases, people take out loans to pay for rent, groceries, medical bills. But instead of helping those in need, the authorities jail them."HRW argues that as most countries have abolished prison sentences for debt, Jordan should follow suit and scrap Article 22 of the law while directing judges to explore alternatives.