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Jordan king calls for tax review as protests continue

King Abdullah is trying to restore calm to Jordan [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 June, 2018

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The Jordanian monarch called for a review of tax laws as anti-austerity protests continued even after the resignation of the prime minister.

Jordan's King Abdullah II called on Tuesday for a review of a draft income tax law, after a week of anti-austerity protests and the resignation of the country's prime minister.

In a letter charging new premier Omar al-Razzaz with forming a government, the monarch said it "must carry out a comprehensive review of the tax system" to avoid "unjust taxes that do not achieve justice and balance between the incomes of the poor and the rich".

This comes after Jordanians made it clear the resignation of the prime minister was not enough as protests continued.

Several thousand Jordanians marched toward the office of outgoing Prime Minister Hani Mulki overnight and into early Tuesday, demanding the government scrap proposed tax increases which critics say mostly target the poor and the middle class.

Riot police scuffled with some of the marchers, trying to keep them away from the building, but the sixth street protest in as many days was largely peaceful.

No specifics on reforms

Mulki resigned on Monday, as King Abdullah tried to get a handle on the biggest protests in the kingdom in several years.

The monarch, who has the ultimate say on policy decisions, promised change, but gave no specifics on possible reforms.

The incoming premier, current education minister Omar al-Razzaz is a Havard-educated economist who has held senior positions at the World Bank.

Protest organisers have said they seek real change, including a rescinding of the tax bill, and that personnel changes at the top are irrelevant without fundamental reforms. It's not clear whether Razzaz would have such a mandate.

In the march, which started late on Monday, some of the protesters chanted: "No to Mulki, No to Razzaz."

An umbrella organisation for more than a dozen unions and professional organisations said it would go ahead with a planned one-day strike on Wednesday, while several other unions said they would suspend their protests to give the country a chance to solve its problems after the resignation of Mulki.

Jordan's government is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to carry out economic reforms and austerity measures to rein in growing public debt.

The kingdom has experienced an economic downturn in part because of prolonged conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and a large influx of refugees several years ago. The official unemployment rate has risen above 18 percent, and it's believed to be double that among young Jordanians.

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