January 21, 2019

Jordan's Prime Minister Hani Mulki resigns over tax protests, state media says

05 June 2018, 11:58 | Darnell Patrick

Riot police was present outside the prime minister's office in Amman

Riot police was present outside the prime minister's office in Amman

When King Abdullah II accepted Hani Mulki's resignation on Monday it was a stunning turnaround for the former prime minister, who had introduced a series of austerity measures, including taxes, fuel price hikes and subsidy cuts since January with little public opposition.

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.

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

Witnesses said demonstrators who converged near the Cabinet office said they would disband only if the government rescinded the tax bill it sent to parliament last month, which critics say would worsen living standards.

And since January, Jordan is seeing a repeating price increase affecting even the simple basic goods price such as bread.

These measures stem from the $723m three-year credit line that the government secured from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

"Seeing Mulki go was a step in the right direction, but we have to get rid of the income tax law and overturn these taxes", said protester Abdullah Mohammed, a 29-year-old Amman taxi driver and father of two.

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

With the beginning of 2018, fuel prices have also risen for at least five times now with electricity bills have been shooting up to 55 percent since February.

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According to official estimates, 18.5% of Jordan's population are unemployed, while 20% are on the brink of poverty. A sea of protesters has been gathering outside al-Mulki's office at night, after the breaking of the Ramadan fast at dusk.

Discontent could "snowball. triggering a domestic crisis", he said, adding that he expected protests to continue until demands are met.

Websites Hala Akhbar and Al-Rai reported that Hani Mulki informed Jordan's King Abdullah II of his decision on Monday.

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

"It would not be fair that the citizen alone bears the burden of financial reforms", he told officials.

Jordan's economy has struggled to grow in the past few years in the face of chronic deficits, as private foreign investment and aid has declined.

Jordan's professional associations, which took the lead in public action by holding a general strike last week, said a second planned general strike on Wednesday would proceed as planned unless the income tax law was withdrawn.

Jordan's Senate speaker Faisal al-Fayez said looking at the current scenario there was indeed a need for "comprehensive national dialogue" on the proposed law.

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

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