Published: Thu, June 07, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Thousands of Jordanians protest government's austerity plan

Thousands of Jordanians protest government's austerity plan

Jordanian Prime Minister Hani Fawzi Al-Mulki has submitted his resignation amid ongoing protests across the country, a source said Monday. He is a former diplomat and government minister, and the son of former Prime Minister Fawzi Mulki.

The summoning of Mulki by the monarch has fueled speculation he might be asked to resign.

Jordan's senate met Sunday for a special session after another night of protests across the country against IMF-backed austerity measures including a draft income tax law and price hikes.

Sixty people were arrested for rioting and carrying bladed weapons during the protests, according to Major General Fadel al-Hamoud, director of public security with the police. "But we will not allow anyone to stray from the peaceful path".

A majority of 78 out of parliament's 130 representatives have pledged to vote against the income tax law introduced by the government last month.

Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has navigated years of instability at its borders, including wars in Iraq and Syria and conflict in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He was tasked with boosting the country's sluggish economy that has been hit by instability in the region. The official unemployment rate has risen above 18 per cent, and it's believed to be double that among young Jordanians. State-run news agency Petra said that protests were seen in at least seven other cities on Saturday.

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"We will escalate if there is no response to our demands", said Ali al Abous, the head of the union's council.

Despite a decision by the government, upon orders by His Majesty King Abdullah, to cancel significant hikes in the prices of fuel and electricity driven by the rising prices of crude oil in global markets, protests continued across Jordan with increasing demands for sacking the government.

"For us, our cause is the draft income tax law".

King Abdullah accepted Hani Al-Mulki's resignation after almost a week of street protests against a draft tax law linked to an economic package from the International Monetary Fund.

Security officials said Monday 60 people had been detained since the protests began.

Many Jordanians really feel they're being squeezed financially by a authorities they understand as corrupt and say they don't seem to be getting providers for the taxes they're requested to pay.

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The IMF says the loan aims at slashing Jordan's public debt from about 94 percent of GDP to 77 percent by 2021, through "reforms to bolster economic growth and gradual fiscal consolidation", according to its website. Until Mulki's government, the lifting of bread subsidies and tax changes have been pushed back repeatedly.

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.

The protests, the biggest in Jordan in years, widened on Saturday after Mr. Mulki refused to scrap a bill increasing personal and corporate taxes, saying it was up to Parliament to decide.

The government says it needs the taxes to finance public services and that the tax reforms would reduce social disparities by placing a heavier burden on high earners and have left lower paid workers relatively unscathed.

Protest organizers urged the king to cancel the tax plan, saying the poor are being targeted disproportionately.

During the Arab uprisings in 2011, when protests for reform shook the kingdom, premiers Samir Rifai and Marouf Bakhit both resigned in the face of popular pressure.

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