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.


Cambodian women face surrogacy charges after Vietnam births

A woman rides a motor-cart loaded with bananas in Phnom Penh on July 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 min 25 sec ago
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Cambodian women face surrogacy charges after Vietnam births

  • The surrogacy business boomed in Cambodia after it was put under tight restrictions in neighboring Thailand. There also were crackdowns in India and Nepal

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Three Cambodian women have been charged with violating surrogacy and human trafficking laws after they gave birth to babies they delivered to Chinese nationals in Vietnam, a court official said Friday.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ei Rin said the women, aged 31 and 32, are being detained pending further investigation after being charged on Thursday.
Chhiv Phally, the director of the Interior Ministry’s Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, said the three women were detained by Vietnamese police and returned to Cambodia after they illegally crossed into the country to deliver their children to Chinese nationals for $8,000 per child, reported the English-language Phnom Penh Post newspaper.
Cambodia’s anti-surrogacy law carries a penalty of one to six months in prison, while the human trafficking charge, involving crossing borders, is punishable by 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The anti-surrogacy law was intended to target intermediaries between parents and surrogates, but in the absence of a more appropriate law, has also been applied against women who carry surrogate pregnancies and give birth. The government has said it is drafting a new law to cover surrogacy, but it is not known when it will be ready.
Cambodia hurriedly passed its first law specifically targeting surrogacy in 2016 as the country was becoming a popular destination for foreign would-be parents seeking women to give birth to their children.
Developing countries are popular for surrogacy because costs are much lower than in countries such as the United States and Australia, where surrogate services can cost around $150,000. The surrogacy business boomed in Cambodia after it was put under tight restrictions in neighboring Thailand. There also were crackdowns in India and Nepal.
After Cambodia’s crackdown, would-be parents shifted to seek out surrogates in neighboring Laos.
In December, 32 Cambodian women who were charged with human trafficking for serving as surrogate mothers were released from detention after agreeing to keep the babies rather than giving them up as originally planned.