Published: Fri, June 08, 2018

Protests continue despite ordered tax bill review in Jordan

Protests continue despite ordered tax bill review in Jordan

King Abdullah appointed Omar al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, to form the new government after accepting Hani Mulki's resignation.

The King of Jordan, Abdullah II, warned of the worsening economic conditions witnessed in the country and said that Jordan is now "at a crossroads" and it will either safely get out of this hard situation or face the unknown.

The government's priority, His Majesty said, is to stimulate economic growth, enhance the country's competitiveness and create jobs for the youth. Razzaz was education minister in Mulki's government.

He also wants a dialogue over the planned income tax bill which has approval from Jordan's chief lender, the International Monetary Fund.

Despite Mulki's resignation, daily street protests continued, with organizers saying they would not quit until the tax bill has been scrapped.

He called for political parties, unions and civil society groups to take part in the talks.

The protests have shaken Jordan, a United States ally that has mostly escaped the turmoil that has buffeted its neighbours in the Middle East in recent years.

Protesters had pressed on overnight, with hundreds rallying amid tight security in the capital though turnout appeared lower than for the past few nights.

Police in Amman fired tear gas and blocked roads to prevent protesters from reaching government offices, the BBC reported.

The king retains final say on all policy issues, and presumably would also define the parameters of any economic and political reforms sought by Razzaz.

Many demonstrators said they wanted more than Mulki's departure.

King Abdullah attributed the political and economic crisis which has led to protests to the country bearing the burden of hosting Syrian refugees despite the decline in worldwide aid, and accused the global community of failing to fulfil its duties towards Jordan.

Policemen secure the main road near the prime minister's office during a protest in Amman, Jordan.

In a sign the tax hikes could be shelved, the official Petra news agency, citing the speaker of parliament, said MPs were on course to ask the king's permission to hold an exceptional session, with a majority demanding the changes be withdrawn.

Officials say Razzaz had been an opponent of reforms that hurt the poor. His appointment nevertheless sends a positive message to foreign donors that Jordan will press ahead with reforms, though in a gradual way, they said.

Mr Mulki's government had argued it needed the money to fund public services and said the measures would mean higher earners paid more.

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