Royal reprieve after Jordan price hikes spark protests

Thousands of Jordanians take to the streets of Amman on May 30, 2018 to protest against a new income tax draft law which was approved by the government recently and sent to parliament for endoresement. Arabic slogan on poster placard reads: "Strike/We are broke". (AFP)
Updated 02 June 2018
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Royal reprieve after Jordan price hikes spark protests

  • Past price hikes have triggered riots in Jordan, a country of 9.5 million with few resources, burdened by poverty and unemployment.
  • Prices have steadily risen in Jordan over recent years as the cash-strapped government pushes reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II ordered the government on Friday to freeze new price hikes on fuel and electricity, officials said, after angry protests across the cash-strapped country.
Past price hikes have triggered riots in Jordan, a country of 9.5 million with few resources, burdened by poverty and unemployment.
Late Thursday and early Friday, hundreds of Jordanians demonstrated in Amman and other cities, calling for the “fall of the government” as they blocked roads with cars and blazing tires.
That came after the government decreed rises of up to 5.5 percent on fuels and a 19 percent hike in electricity prices, as well as laying out plans for a new income tax.
But early Friday, the king ordered the government to shelve hikes set to take effect that day as the country’s Muslim majority observe the holy month of Ramadan, official Petra news agency said.
Prices have steadily risen in Jordan over recent years as the cash-strapped government pushes reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund.
The country has a public debt of some $35 billion (30 billion euros), equivalent to 90 percent of its gross domestic product.
In 2016, it secured a $723-million three-year credit line from the IMF to support economic and financial reforms and was told it must drop subsidies and raise taxes to meet conditions for future loans.
Earlier this year, Jordan as much as doubled bread prices after dropping subsidies on the staple, as well as hiking value-added taxes on several goods including cigarettes.
The price of fuel has risen on five occasions since the beginning of the year, while electricity bills have shot up 55 percent since February.
According to official estimates, 18.5 percent of the population is unemployed, while 20 percent are on the brink of poverty.
More than 1,000 demonstrators rallied outside the prime minister’s office in central Amman late Thursday, chanting: “The people want the government to fall.”
In the northern cities of Irbid and Ajlun, some protesters cut off roads with burning tires, while in the Tabarbur suburb of Amman motorists blocked roads with their cars.


Need to vent some anger? Jordan opens ‘Axe Rage Rooms’

Updated 18 sec ago
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Need to vent some anger? Jordan opens ‘Axe Rage Rooms’

  • People can demolish old items as well as smash plates and glasses — but for the price of $17
  • So-called rage rooms have been opening up around the world
AMMAN: In an underground room in Amman, a small group of Jordanians swing giant hammers at an old television, computer and printer, wrecking the machines, and then hit a car windscreen, shattering the glass into tiny pieces.
In the “Axe Rage Rooms,” people can vent their anger and frustration by demolishing old items as well as smashing plates and glasses.
“This is simply a place to break things and vent,” co-founder and general manager Ala’din Atari said. “A place where people come when they’re looking for a new experience... walking into a room with various items which they can break.”
So-called rage rooms have opened around the world, drawing visitors who want let their hair down and unleash some anger.
At the “Axe Rage Rooms,” where the experience costs $17, participants wearing protective suits and helmets wrote the issues bothering them on a blackboard — “ex-girlfriends,” “boss” and “all boyfriends,” the words becoming the targets of their anger.
Atari said his venue, which has seen about 10 clients a day in the month since it opened, had a space for couples, where the pair enter two rooms separated by a reinforced glass window.
“I wanted to try something new and...it was great,” said Ayla Alqadi, 23, after chucking old kitchenware at the window — behind which stood a friend.
“I felt like I had extra energy, it was a way to channel all the negativity inside, everything you feel inside you can release here.”