Jordan PM reshuffles cabinet as IMF reforms in focus

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz announced a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday as the government looks to push through reforms intended to revive stagnant economic growth and cut public expenditure. (Reuters)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Jordan PM reshuffles cabinet as IMF reforms in focus

AMMAN: Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz announced a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday as the government looks to push through reforms intended to revive stagnant economic growth and cut public expenditure.
Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, was appointed by King Abdullah in June to replace Hani Al-Mulki, who resigned to defuse a crisis that saw some of the largest protests in years over planned IMF-driven austerity measures, including tax hikes.
In an apparent bid to calm widespread discontent over rising economic hardship Razzaz — who had said he would re-evaluate his team after 100 days in office — reduced the 29-member cabinet to 27.
But he also kept key ministries — notably the interior, finance and foreign portfolios — unchanged, and has warned Jordan would pay a heavy price if a tax reform bill failed to pass into law this year.
Razzaz had angered unions and civic bodies when he introduced the IMF-inspired bill in September, making only cosmetic changes to one that brought down Mulki.
Seen as a better communicator than his predecessor, Razzaz had promised to restore public trust in a country where many blame successive governments for failing to deliver on pledges of reviving growth that is stuck at around 2 percent, cutting waste and curbing corruption.
But he installed many of the old-guard conservatives and tribal figures in his cabinet who held sway in previous administrations, and critics — who have so far stopped short of calling for new street protests — say he has taken no clear steps to hold anyone accountable for graft.
Jordan’s bloated bureaucracy is responsible for some of the world’s highest government expenditure as a percentage of GDP.
Under an IMF austerity plan it must rein in spending to cut spiralling debt standing a $37 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product.
Razzaz said he wanted to push through the tax bill this year to retain IMF support and avoid higher servicing costs on over 1 billion dinars ($1.4 billion) of foreign debt due in 2019.
Any rejection of the bill that parliament will begin debating next week raised the prospect of ratings downgrades, Razzaz said in an interview with state television last month.
“We will pay a heavy price if we enter next year without a tax bill,” Razzaz said, adding the reform would bring in an extra 300 million dinars in revenue.
Jordan’s economy has also been hit by regional conflict that has weighed on investor sentiment.


OIC foreign ministers to meet in Abu Dhabi

Updated 54 min 45 sec ago
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OIC foreign ministers to meet in Abu Dhabi

  • The meeting will be held in UAE’s capital from March 1
JEDDAH: The foreign ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states will meet in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2 to discuss the OIC’s role in promoting development in member states.
Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen said reaching higher levels of development and prosperity for member states, and strengthening economic and trade relations between them, are among the most important pillars of the OIC’s economic program.
“Economic cooperation between OIC member states is based on the established connection between development and peace, security and stability,” he added.
Al-Othaimeen cited the number of member states (57), and the diversity of their natural sources, as positive factors in terms of economic cooperation.
To improve economic and social cooperation between member states, he called for the implementation of joint programs to mobilize resources and maximize opportunities.
The foreign ministers will discuss the effectiveness and adoption of the OIC’s various programs and measures.
They will also highlight their national priorities for economic development, and areas of convergence with the OIC’s objectives, plans and programs.
The ministers will discuss activating different financing mechanisms, and the development and marketing of Islamic financial products and other innovative financing tools.
They will also explore the active participation of community-based organizations in developing the rural sector; promoting employment of the youth, women and vulnerable people; promoting economic best practices; improving the quality of human resources; and providing appropriate institutional frameworks for national economic development strategies.