Jordanians in third night of tax rise protests

Cheryl Sanders
June 6, 2018

Monday was not the first time that a Jordanian prime minister resigned in the face of popular protests.

Jordan's Prime Minister Hani Mulki submitted his resignation to King Abdullah on Monday, an official source said, to soothe widespread anger over economic policies that have sparked the largest protests in several years and dozens of arrests.

King Abdullah II has accepted the resignation of Mr. Mulki's government, Jordan's Royal Court said.

"Dr Razzaz's first priority should be to regain the confidence of the people and work in coordination with other institutions in the country such as the parliament, civil society - and most importantly these young Jordanians", says Nabil Sharif, Jordanian political analyst and former minister.

Protesters had vowed not to "kneel" and earned support from trade unions as well as a majority of MPs opposed to the new tax.

Demonstrators who have converged for nightly protests near the Cabinet have said they would disband only if the government rescinded the tax bill it sent to parliament last month.

Jordan, a mostly desert kingdom with few resources, has seen prices of several basic goods and services like bread, fuel and electricity steadily rise over the past year.

On Thursday, the government announced it would raise fuel and electricity prices from Friday, sparking protests across the country.

Two government-linked websites, Hala Akhbar and Al-Rai, reported Monday that Mulki had offered his resignation.

Jordan's economy has suffered a downturn in recent years, including rising unemployment, largely as a result of conflicts in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

According to official estimates, 18.5 percent of Jordan's population are unemployed, while 20 percent are on the brink of poverty.

It's not clear if the departure of the business-friendly Mulki will be enough to defuse growing public anger.

The loan, meant to support economic and financial reforms, has the long term objective of reducing Jordan's public debt from about 94 percent of GDP to 77 percent by 2021.

On Saturday Mulki met with trade union representatives who demanded the income tax law be revoked, but they failed to reach an agreement.

The bill mainly focuses on three aspects: improving tax collection, curbing tax evasion and boosting tax revenues, which are expected to increase by JD300 million annually. "We want to protect this country", he added.

Amman is the most expensive Arab city to live in, according to a recent report published by The Economist.

The budget deficit stands at $750 million for 2018, and that is after Jordan received hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid.

"This will be accomplished through reforms to bolster economic growth and gradual fiscal consolidation", the International Monetary Fund says on its website.

They said the income tax law does not serve the economic and social interests of the people.

Jordan has a public debt of some $35 billion, equivalent to around 90 percent of its gross domestic product.

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