International News

Jordan’s prime minister submits resignation after anti-govt protests

Hani al-Mulki has resigned from his post as Jordan’s prime minister in a bid to defuse anger over government economic policies that have sparked the largest protests across the country in years.
Official sources said that Mulki tendered his resignation in a meeting with King Abdullah in the capital Amman on Monday.
The embattled prime minister was summoned to a meeting with King Abdullah, after the largest anti-government demonstrations in Jordan since 2011.
Public anger has grown over government policies since a steep general sales tax hike earlier this year and the abolition of bread subsidies.
The ongoing protests widened on Saturday after Mulki refused to scrap a bill increasing personal and corporate taxes.
Demonstrators who converged near the Cabinet office said they would disband only if the government rescinded the tax bill it sent to parliament last month.
Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of Amman and main provincial towns again on Sunday.
“The government has made us penniless … they have left us with no more money in our pockets,” chanted protesters.
Protesters also criticize politicians for squandering public funds and corruption. “Our demands are legitimate. No, no to corruption,” chanted the demonstrators, urging King Abdullah to intervene and crack down on official graft.
Police chief Major General Fadel al-Hamoud said security forces had detained 60 people for breaking the law during the protests and 42 security force members had been injured.
Major General Hussein Hawatmeh, head of the Gendarmerie security department said that the situation had been brought under control. “Rest assured, Jordan is a safe and secure country, and things are under control.”
In addition to that, unions representing tens of thousands of employees in both the public and private sectors have also called for a general strike on Wednesday after their demands for the bill to be scrapped were rejected by the government.
Mulki was appointed in May 2016 and given the responsibility of reviving a sluggish economy and business sentiment hit by regional turmoil. The tax increases have caused his popularity to plummet.
Meanwhile, King Abdullah has asked Omar al-Razzaz to form a new government. Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, was education minister in the outgoing government.
The government says it needs more funds for public services and argues that the tax changes reduce social disparities by placing a heavier burden on high earners. Opponents say a tough IMF-imposed fiscal consolidation plan has worsened the plight of poorer Jordanians and squeezed the middle class.
Jordan’s economy has struggled to grow in the past few years in the face of chronic deficits, as private foreign capital and aid flows have declined.
Jordan has a public debt of some $35 billion, equivalent to around 90 percent of its gross domestic product.
The price hike and steep tax increases, which the government of Mulki introduced earlier in the year as mandated by the IMF, are meant to cut into the debt.
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.