Nationwide strike in Jordan as protests continue

08 June, 2018, 07:34 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Nationwide strike in Jordan as protests continue

Harvard-educated Razzaz, who was education minister, will start consultations on Wednesday to form a new government.

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

They are the latest in a series of measures since Amman secured a $723-million three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

In a letter charging new premier Omar al-Razzaz with forming a government, King Abdullah II said it "must carry out a comprehensive review of the tax system" to avoid "unjust taxes that do not achieve justice and balance between the incomes of the poor and the rich".

Anti-riot police face off against people gathered in protest outside the Prime Minister's office ( location also known as the 4th circle) on June 4, 2018 in Amman, Jordan. Razzaz replaces Hani Mulki, who resigned after refusing to scrap the tax reform bill.

The king blamed the country's economic woes on regional instability, the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and a lack of global support. Dozens of people were detained and more than 40 security members were injured in clashes.

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King Abdullah expressed Jordan's appreciation for Kuwait's historically supportive stands led by Sheikh Sabah, stressing the strength of brotherly relations between the two countries and the keenness to elevate them to the highest levels in the service of their common interests.

Public resentment has been building since bread subsidies were ended and the general sales tax hiked steeply earlier this year under an IMF-driven plan to cut Jordan's $37 billion debt.

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were on course to ask the king's permission to hold an exceptional session, with a majority demanding the changes be withdrawn.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 said he had been an opponent of reforms that hurt the poor.

While Jordan has remained relatively stable during recent periods of turmoil in the Middle East, the country's debt has reached $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of the country's GDP, and the country relies heavily on worldwide aid. His appointment still sends a message to foreign donors that Jordan will press ahead with reforms, though in a gradual way, they said. Jordan was rocked by unrest in 2012 when the International Monetary Fund told the government to lift gasoline prices.

In a letter accepting the Mulki's resignation, the king reportedly praised the former PM for "bravely taking hard decisions that were not popular but were in the higher interest of the nation" and urged him to help the new government through the transition process.

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