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French Version

Auto insurance to see 100 percent premium increase

For Jordanian motorists the move is unjustifiable. Many drivers see such a massive increase, levied so quickly, as a tremendous burden they will be unable to bear.

JORDAN (Star) - The automobile insurance sector in Jordan has been walking a tightrope for a number of years now. The Jordan Insurance Association (JIA), afraid the worst could be yet to come, has made a decision to raise compulsory insurance premiums by 100 percent. This government-secured step is designed to allow the 26 insurance companies in Jordan to make adjustments that will secure sector profitability. The change will take effect 4 April.

For Jordanian motorists the move is unjustifiable. Many drivers see such a massive increase, levied so quickly, as a tremendous burden they will be unable to bear. Those who utilize their vehicles as a business for transport are the most affected, saying such increases will have a greater affect on them than an increase in fuel prices.

There is a new concern as well. Motorists will now have to account for traffic violations to their insurance agencies. Where previously accidents and traffic tickets did not reflect in premiums, insurance agencies will now begin tracking motorist performance to make a more accurate determination of risk. With this system, ideally, those who are involved in more accidents and have more violations will pay higher premiums because they generate greater payouts for insurance companies. Those who keep their noses clean will be faced with this new increase, but their clean record will benefit them overall.

Ahmed Khalil, JIA's deputy president, said the association is concerned about the increase in the number of auto accidents in the Kingdom. The significant increase has had a marked effect on the sector. The number of car accidents in Jordan has increased 10 percent over the past 15 years-resulting in more than JD 500 million in losses annually. Kahlil says the new system reflects this change. "The more accidents a driver has on the road the more they will pay," he explained.

"Jordanians see the increase on insurance premiums as a mandatory tax. That is simply wrong," Khalil said. "The premium is money you pay to get cost-efficient insurance in return."

Khalil's words were not enough for many economists who believe the JIA is manipulating the whole issue for the benefit of the local companies who've suffered financial problems for the last five years.

While economists agree, current insurance laws and regulations need more modification, they note any further financial pressures put on Jordanians will lead to greater losses for insurance companies down the road.

"I believe the government is making a mistake if it believes the insurance sector in Jordan can flourish at the expense of Jordanians," said Dr Munir Hamarneh, professor of economics at University of Jordan. "It is true more and more Jordanians will have driving licenses in the future but that doesn't mean the government has the right to extract money against people's will."

Khalil defends the JIA's decision. "The costs of compulsory insurance are high. We need to balance our costs with revenues in this sector," he said. Three years ago companies lost JD 5 million in insurance premiums. Today the compulsory insurance premiums will generate JD 20 million, about one-fifth of the total insurance premiums in all fields.

Several economists were also developing an interesting theory for the increase of premiums. They suggest the latest procedure aims to control Jordanian motorists' behavior on the streets, protecting people's livelihood from destruction. They note that the changes to policies now include all passengers inside the vehicle as well as the driver.

If any of the passengers are killed in a car accident the insurance companies will now pay relatives JD 12,000 in compensation. The same remuneration will be paid for those completely or partially paralyzed in car accidents.

Medical payouts for those injured in car accidents have also been increased to JD 5000 per person. In the past insurance companies were restricted to JD 100,000 in total remunerations for a single car accident. This ceiling has been removed in the latest changes, leaving no limit to payouts.

"In 2001 the insurance sector suffered almost JD 500,000 in losses," stressed Khalil, adding that efforts are needed to make people fully aware of the significance of compulsory insurance.

What JIA officials and insurance companies are most concerned about is this lack of public awareness about compulsory insurance. "Many Jordanians still believe an insurance policy is just a piece of paper that any driver must pay for to make their cars legal," Khalil said.

"An insurance policy is a guarantee for every Jordanian motorist to drive on safe and secure on streets, protecting others from the hazards of accidents."

Hamarneh agrees the just implementation of insurance laws on Jordanian motorists requires an efficient execution of traffic laws on the streets.

"If the government wants to adjust the insurance sector, it first needs to reorganize the traffic laws between large cities and towns in the Kingdom," Hamarneh pointed out. "The transport sector in the Kingdom is one of the worst in the Middle East and needs renovation. The bad streets around the country are still one of the main causes behind the high rates of traffic accidents," he added.

Ghassan Joha
The Star

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