The Jordanian government has withdrawn a tax reform proposal after mass protests for nearly 10 days which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki. Nearly 30 trade unions had mobilized against the reform, forcing the government to accede to the demand of relaxing taxes. Following al-Mulki’s resignation on June 4, King Abdullah II appointed Omar al-Jazzaz, a Harvard-educated economist, as the Prime Minister.
Earlier, protesters had taken over the streets of Amman. “We will not kneel... Our demands are legitimate,” they asserted. One of the protesters said many Jordanians were struggling to even find food daily. “Women are scouring garbage bins to feed their children. Prices keep rising and now, we have to bear new taxes also,” he said.
“The pockets of Jordanian citizens are empty. At present, Jordan is one of the most expensive countries in the Arab region and has no resources,” another protester said.
Scores of civilians were injured during the protests and many others were detained by the police. Al-Mulki attempted to get the unions to withdraw their protests by meeting their representatives on June 2. However, the unions refused to yield and the protests continued against the tax reforms which would have severely affected the poor and the middle class.
The fragility of the Jordanian economy has been furthered by the inflow of refugees in recent times. The country has sought to tide over the crisis by relying on aid from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and the United States. The country’s total debt now stands at $40bn. The unemployment rate has also risen above 18%. The country’s debt to GDP ratio that was 71% in 2011 is now 95%.
On Wednesday, the unions had decided to stage a massive agitation. “Street protests will not calm down until the government responds to the demands of the movement to abolish the income tax law,” the head of the Professional Unions Association had said.