[QODLink]
Middle East

Jordan's king swears in new cabinet

Smallest government in decades will be tasked with pushing through unpopular austerity measures to secure an IMF loan.

Last Modified: 31 Mar 2013 06:57
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Jordan's King Abdullah has sworn in a new government tasked with pushing through austerity measures required under a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

The cabinet lineup was confirmed on Saturday after nearly three weeks of consultations led by prime minister Abdullah Ensour, who himself was reappointed on March 9 after the king canvassed members of parliament.

The monarch's rare consultations follow constitutional changes devolving powers away from the palace - a response to calls for reform prompted by uprisings across the Arab world and smaller scale protests inside Jordan.

King Abdullah previously hand-picked his prime ministers without consulting parliament, and the 150-member assembly did not play a role in forming governments.

The cabinet announced on Saturday was the smallest in four decades, with 18 ministers.

Austerity measures

The appointment of former central bank governor Umayya Toukan as finance minister signalled a desire by lawmakers to press ahead with unpopular reforms sought by the IMF in return for a $2bn loan.

US-educated Toukan is a strong advocate of fiscal steps to reduce years of overspending by successive governments. The IMF pushed the kingdom to liberalise fuel prices last November, sparking several days of civil unrest, mainly across rural and tribal areas.

Ensour has faced down street protests, arguing a shift from broad subsidies towards targeted cash transfers to the poor was the only way to deal with a financial crisis that drove the deficit to over 12 percent of GDP and forced Jordan to seek IMF help.

The fund has urged the country to continue to overhaul its costly subsidy scheme and raise electricity tariffs, which officials say will be hiked in June.

The IMF this month completed its first review of last year's stand by arrangement with the Jordan and applauded Ensour's economic reforms, saying it saw some signs of economic recovery. It said on March 11 its executive board could consider Jordan's request for completion of the first review as early as April, making available the second tranche of about $385m.

Jordan's financial crisis has been deepened by a drop in Gulf aid which traditionally tops up the country's coffers, and the economy has been strained by a flood of refugees from the two-year-old civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Ensour, untainted by corruption allegations, has held senior government posts in successive administrations.

He was appointed in October after the king dissolved parliament halfway through its four-year term to prepare for the country's first parliamentary elections since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

The constitutional changes transferred some of the monarch's powers to parliament, which critics said had become sidelined, and restored to the government some executive powers which had shifted to the palace and security forces.

433

Source:
Reuters
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.