Jordan's prime minister resigns after days of protests, reports say

Geraldine Edwards
June 4, 2018

Police chief Major General Fadel al-Hamoud said security forces had detained 60 people for breaking the law in protests so far, and 42 security force members had been injured, but protests remained under control.

"Rest assured, Jordan is a safe and secure country, and things are under control", said Major General Hussein Hawatmeh, head of the Gendarmerie security department, appearing along with Hamoud at a news conference.

Mulki had introduced a series of economic policies, including tax hikes, that sparked the largest protests in several years, political sources said.

Mulki submitted his resignation on June 4, 2018 to King Abdullah II after five consecutive days of protests against his government's austerity measures, a government source said.

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"The government has been raising prices for everything, without improving any of the country's poor services in return", Ali Ibrahim, one of the protesters, said. Many Jordanian parliamentarians announced they'll be voting against the income tax law. "They have left us with no more money in our pockets".

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.

In a sign the tax hikes could be shelved, the official Petra news agency, citing the speaker of parliament, said lawmakers were on course to ask the king's permission to hold an exceptional session, with a majority demanding the changes be withdrawn. His appointment nevertheless sends a positive message to foreign donors that Jordan will press ahead with reforms, though in a gradual way, they said.

The IMF deal was aimed at reducing Jordan's public debt from 94% to 77% of the gross domestic product by 2021.

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The Senate says the Jordanian government should "balance economic challenges and pressures with the interests of different social sectors", but shall also be cautioned against violence asking the authorities to bring justice to those who are "troublemakers". Until Mulki's government, the lifting of bread subsidies and tax changes have been pushed back repeatedly.

He added that price risis were a demand from the International Monetary Fund and therefore must be enforced, however in order to pull itself out of recession, Jordan would need more foreign aid.

Mr Mulki had refused to scrap the bill, saying it was up to parliament to decide whether to pass it or not.

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

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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 new legislation would apply an income tax on those who earn 8000 Jordanian Dinars and more annually (201681.02 EGP), causing a backlash from the Jordanian lower middle class, and the Jordanian trade unions which then escalated to a nation-wide strike that took place on Wednesday (May 30).

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