Jordanians protest over price increases

Demonstrations across country oppose new taxes on goods and services and call on cabinet to resign amid economic crises.

Jordan protests
Jordan's unemployment has jumped to 14 percent, with the youth hit worst [Al Jazeera]

Hundreds of Jordanians have protested across the country, including in the capital Amman, against the government’s decision to impose new taxes on a number of goods and services, calling on the cabinet to resign.

The government earlier this month imposed new sales taxes on internet and mobile use, bread, domestic fuel and petrol, and cigarettes, among other products, as a part of austerity measures that aim to curb its large budget deficit and huge public debt.

About 1,500 Jordanians took to the streets of Amman’s business district after weekly Muslim prayers at the Husseini Mosque to protest.

The demonstrators marched from the mosque to the seat of the nearby municipality chanting slogans demanding the ouster of the government and venting anger at the price rises.

READ MORE: Jordanians ‘at breaking point’ over austerity measures

“The people of Jordan are on fire, all because of the rise in prices,” some chanted, the AFP news agency reported.

“The government that raises prices must fall, the government that impoverishes people must go,” was another rallying cry, as demonstrators held up signs that read: “Raising prices is playing with fire.”

Similar protests were also staged in the northwestern city of Salt, as well as in the regions of Karak and Madaba, south of the capital.

The price rises come as Jordan faces a public debt of about $35bn and after Jordan struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a $723m three-year credit line.

‘Government of taxes’

Demonstrations over price increases erupted in recent days.

On Saturday, protests that broke out in the southern city of Karak provoked similar demonstrations in the southern city of Tafilah, Salt and Madaba.

Several hundred people gathered in Karak, 90km south of Amman, calling for the resignation of the prime minister, Hani Mulki, and an end to what they called a “government of taxes”.

“We are suffocated by the government’s continuous approach to solving [dire] economic conditions by turning to people’s pockets,” Muath Batoush, a protester from Karak, told Al Jazeera, referring to increasing prices and taxes.

Protesters chanted slogans such as “Leave Mulki”, “Shame on you, you have sold the country for a dollar”, and “We cannot pay the bills for the corrupt”.

On January 23, the Jordanian parliament approved the 2017 budget, which seeks to raise $643m in additional taxes and tariffs.

Earlier this month, the government decided to raise fuel prices and sales tax on several commodities and telecom services ranging from eight to 16 percent.

The government’s move comes as Jordan tries to reduce its budget deficit of $1.2bn as part of its economic reform agreement with the IMF.

In July 2016, Jordan signed a 36-month IMF programme providing it with access to $700m in loans.

The country’s economic growth has fallen and unemployment jumped to 14 percent of a population of 9.5 million, with the youth hit worst, according to government figures, while unofficial estimates put it as high as 30 percent.

Source: News Agencies