Jordan's PM resigns amid tax-rise protests

08 Juin, 2018, 05:24 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Jordanian protesters shout slogans and raise a national flag during a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office in the capital Amman early Monday

Prime Minister Hani Mulki stepped down on Monday in an effort to quell the unrest but his departure - and King Abdullah's call to review the law - appear to have done little to reduce public anger.

Jordanian media, including the government-linked Al-Rai newspaper, widely reported Monday that the current education minister, Omar Razzaz, was tapped as Mulki's successor.

Enraged Jordanians continue to protest over a new tax bill backed by the International Monetary Fund even after King Abdullah replaced the prime minister.

It was the latest in a series of austerity measures since Amman secured a $723-million loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2016. Mulki had attempted to reach an agreement with trade union representatives during a meeting prior to the events but an agreement was never reached while the representatives demanded the new law be revoked altogether.

According to official estimates, 18.5 percent of Jordan's population of 9.5 million is unemployed, while 20 percent are on the brink of poverty.

So far, Jordanian authorities have arrested 60 protesters for "breaking the law", Reuters reports, adding that the demonstrations have also injured 42 security force officers.

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The monarch, who has the ultimate say on policy decisions, promised change, but gave no specifics on possible reforms. Mr Mulki also said it was up to parliament to decide whether to passed it or not.

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. "The individuals (in government) do not concern us if they change, we want to change the approach of the government", said Ali al-Abous, head of the Professional Unions Association.

Razzaz is a Harvard-educated economist who served with the World Bank in both Washington and the region.

The ongoing protests widened on Saturday after Mulki refused to scrap a bill increasing personal and corporate taxes. His appointment nevertheless sends a message to foreign donors that Jordan will press ahead with reforms, though in a gradual way, they said.

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.

Mr Mulki's government had argued it needed the money to fund public services and said the measures would mean higher earners paid more. The measures have sparked some of the biggest economic protests in five years.

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