New Jordan PM to withdraw tax bill amid protests

Special New Jordan PM to withdraw tax bill amid protests
Premier-designate Omar Razzaz said the priority is to consult the MPs, senate and unions over the draft income tax law. (Reuters)
Updated 08 June 2018

New Jordan PM to withdraw tax bill amid protests

New Jordan PM to withdraw tax bill amid protests
  • Any official who is ‘messing up will be fired immediately,’ says King Abdullah
  • Since January, resource-poor Jordan has seen repeated price rises including for staples such as bread, as well as extra taxes on basic goods

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz said that he would withdraw a proposed tax law that sparked large protests and forced the resignation of his predecessor.

The move appeared to have eased tensions in the capital Amman and other locations where nightly demonstrations had taken place for almost a week.

But it also raises questions as to how Jordan can continue with tough austerity measures demanded by the kingdom’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund to reduce public debt.

“Once my government is formed and swears in, we will withdraw the tax law,” Razzaz said after meeting the speaker of Parliament, Taher Tarawneh, on Thursday.

The former World Bank economist has started consultations to form a government that can tackle the country’s deep economic challenges.

“The priority is to consult with the MPs, senate and unions, first over the draft income tax law,” Razzaz said after emerging from the meeting.

Rawan Jayyousi, one of the activists in the protests outside the prime minister’s office, welcomed the statement. 

“We are looking forward to Dr. Razzaz replicating the dialogue he organized when he was minister of education to his new position as prime minister,” she said. 

Jayyousi added that many of her friends and colleagues had been posting on social media calls for suspending the protests to give Razzaz and his new team a chance.

The protests started with a strike called by unions over what would have been steep increases in income tax.

Ahmad Samara Zoubi, the head of the engineers’ union, also said that the protests should be suspended to give the new prime minister-designate an opportunity. 

“We will put all our resources at your disposal,” he said.

Ibrahim Tarawneh, head of the dentists’ union, called on Razzaz not to include any of the current ministers in his new team.

Mamdouh Al-Abadi, a former deputy prime minister, told Arab News that he was proud of how the protests had taken place and how the government had reacted. 

“I hope that this good virus we are witnessing will spread to nearby countries,” he said.

One video that has been shared widely shows King Abdullah speaking informally and saying that “the ministers were asleep when the income tax law was approved,” and that any official who is “messing up will be fired immediately.”

Jordanians are still in flux as to what will happen next and whether the protests will fizzle out or continue through the last 10 days of Ramadan.