AMMAN: Hundreds of Jordanians demonstrated in the capital Amman for a third consecutive day yesterday against price hikes and an income tax draft law driven by IMF recommendations to slash its public debt. Protests have gripped the country since Wednesday, when hundreds flooded the streets of Amman and demonstrated in other cities at the call of trade unions, to demand the fall of the government.
Last week the government adopted an income tax draft law, yet to be approved by parliament, aimed at widening the country’s tax base and reaping 300 million dinars ($420 million, 360 million euros) for the treasury each year. It is the latest in a series of economic reforms since Amman secured a $723-million three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.
The loan, intended to support economic and financial reforms, has the long term objective of reducing Jordan’s public debt from about 94 percent of GDP to 77 percent by 2021. “This will be accomplished through reforms to bolster economic growth and gradual fiscal consolidation,” the IMF says on its website. Prices have steadily risen in recent years in Jordan, a country of 9.5 million which is burdered by poverty and unemployment, since January.
On Thursday, the government announced it would raise fuel and electricity prices from Friday, sparking protests across the country. It later froze its decision under orders from King Abdullah II. But Friday night, hundreds of protesters were back on the streets outside the prime minister’s office in Amman, calling for the government to fall, AFP reporters said. Some demonstrators blocked roads with their cars, while others held signs reading: “The people of Jordan will not kneel”.
Protests hit in several other cities, including Irbid and Jarash in the north, Zarqa in the east, and the southern city of Maan, which was rocked by deadly riots in the late 1980s over rising food prices. Police said some demonstrators overnight “attacked” law enforcement agents and “tried to attack public and private property”. They warned they would resort to force if necessary. Under the proposed new law, anyone with an annual income of 8,000 dinars or above would have to pay income tax, while businesses would face steep tax increases. Evaders would be heavily fined.
A majority of deputies — 78 out of 130 MPs-issued a statement Friday saying they would vote against the draft legislation. They said the income tax law does not serve the economic and social interests of the people. Trade union representatives were due to meet with Prime Minister Hani Mulki to demand that he revoke the bill or face further protests, said the president of the country’s trade union federation, Ali Obus. – AFP