Jordan pushes new IMF-backed tax bill to parliament

Jordan’s cabinet sent to parliament an IMF-backed draft tax bill, a main plank of austerity measures to ease rising public debt. (File photo / Getty)
Updated 26 September 2018
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Jordan pushes new IMF-backed tax bill to parliament

  • Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, was appointed by the monarch last June
  • Unions and civic associations behind last June’s protests have rejected the new modified tax bill

AMMAN: Jordan’s cabinet on Tuesday sent to parliament an IMF-backed draft tax bill, a main plank of austerity measures to ease rising public debt, an issue that caused street protests last summer, officials said.
The government hopes to push through the new legislation within two months despite opposition from many deputies, saying the law promotes social justice by targeting high earners and combats long-time corporate tax evaders.
Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, was appointed by the monarch last June after his predecessor was sacked in a move to defuse a crisis that saw some of the largest protests in years over tax hikes.
Razzaz withdrew from parliament a tax law that had been put forward by the previous government and said he would hold “broad consultations with civic bodies over a new tax system that will not trample on citizens’ rights.”
Earlier this year, a general sales tax was raised and a subsidy on bread was scrapped as part of the IMF’s three-year fiscal plan that aims to cut the spiralling $37 billion debt, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product.
Unions and civic associations behind last June’s protests have rejected the new modified tax bill saying it should not have been drafted but have so far stopped short of calling for street protests. They want the government to give priority to fighting corruption and cutting public waste.
The government says the new law softens the impact of the tax hikes on middle class families by raising personal income thresholds and reintroducing personal exemptions.
Razzaz has promised to restore public trust in a country where many blame successive governments for failing to deliver on pledges of reviving growth and curbing corruption.
Razzaz has warned that parliament’s rejection of the bill would risk hurting the debt-laden economy, where annual growth has been stagnant at around 2 percent in recent years.
Any delay would push even higher the cost of servicing over 1 billion dinars ($1.4 billion) of foreign debt due in 2019, raising the prospect of rating agencies downgrading the kingdom’s credit ratings, Razzaz said in a recent interview with state television.
“If we don’t come with a tax law we will face these dangers. It will cost us dearly,” Razzaz said last week.
He said the tax bill would bring an extra 300 million dinars in revenue for the budget and avoid worsening a chronic 1.7 billion dinar budget shortfall. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Janet Lawrence)


Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

Syrian pro-government forces hold a position near the village of al-Malihah, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, on September 9, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

  • The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.
But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.
SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal.”
A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.
The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.
The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.
Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.
The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.
The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.