RIYADH/AMMAN: Saudi Arabia will host a special conference on Sunday aimed at charting a course for Jordan out of its economic crisis.
King Salman called the meeting in Makkah after a series of street protests in Amman over planned austerity measures culminated in the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki.
His successor, Omar Al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, announced on Thursday that a controversial IMF-backed income tax bill would be withdrawn.
Sunday’s conference will be attended by representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan “to discuss means of supporting Jordan to overcome its current crisis,” the Saudi Press Agency said.
The conference was welcomed in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia “senses the importance of its role in safeguarding security and stability, and implementing subsidy and support initiatives,” said Muslim World League Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa.
Jordan’s former deputy prime minister Jawad Anani told Arab News: “The first priority is to cover the $723 million that Jordan was expecting from the IMF had it passed the income tax reform.”
He suggested a bridging grant until the new government could negotiate a new income tax law.
In the middle to long term, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states “can increase their investment in Jordan and can open up their markets to Jordanian products,” Anani said.
Sabri A. Rbeihat, a former Jordanian government minister, called for a long-term solution based on responsibility and mutual respect.
“Our Gulf neighbors need to look at Jordan as a regional partner and to help Jordan out with the responsibilities that our country is bearing on behalf of all Arabs, including the Syrian crisis,” he said.
The IMF has welcomed a call by King Abdullah for a national dialogue on taxes. It will work with Jordan’s new government to complete a program review as quickly as possible to release about $70 million in funding, it said.
“It’s critical that the benefits of costs and reforms are balanced, across all sectors of the economy, with a greater focus on those that have a greater capacity to pay, while protecting the most vulnerable,” said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice.
“At the same time, recent events also confirm the critical importance of bold reforms to address high unemployment, particularly among youth and women.”