Omar al-Razzaz appointed Jordan’s new PM amid protests

Former World Bank economist al-Razzaz has been tasked with forming new government and conducting review of tax system.

Jordan''s newly appointed Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, right, and newly appointed Education Minister Omar Ahmad Munif Al Razzaz speak together upon their appointment following a meeting at the Jorda
Al-Razzaz was Jordan's education minister in the outgoing cabinet [File: Khalil Mazraawi/AP Photo]

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has formally appointed Omar al-Razzaz as the country’s prime minister and tasked him with forming a new government, a statement by the royal palace said.

The appointment on Tuesday comes a day after King Abdullah II accepted the resignation of former Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki in a bid to defuse anger amid mass protests over price increases and an income tax reform bill.

Jordanians have been demonstrating in the capital, Amman, and surrounding provinces since last week, calling on the government to scrap the bill. They were also demanding the removal of al-Mulki, whose government had proposed raising income tax by at least five percent.

King Abdullah II said in a statement that the new government must conduct a full review of Jordan’s tax system and launch a national dialogue over the planned income tax law alongside syndicate unions and civil society groups.

Al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, previously served as Jordan’s education minister and is described as a “likeable” figure among the Jordanian people.

On Monday evening, the king revealed in a series of Twitter posts via the royal court’s account, that international aid to the country had plummeted. He also attributed the economic crisis in Jordan to “the regional situation” surrounding the country.

But protesters have vowed to continue demonstrating, calling for a complete overhaul of the government’s system and approach.

Organisers of the protests, led by an independent group referred to as the Hirak Shababi, or youth movement, told Al Jazeera they are also calling for transparency, a clear set of goals, and an overall change in government policies.

The government’s economic reform measures are the latest in a series of economic reforms since Amman secured a $723m three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

Unions representing tens of thousands of employees in the country have also called for a general strike on Wednesday and vowed to continue demonstrating until a new approach to the government’s policies is introduced.

Jordan has long suffered from economic problems and remains heavily reliant on foreign aid.

In the past, Jordanians have protested a sales tax increase and other price hikes, but the new draft bill would increase the burden on Jordan’s middle class and poor specifically.

As of now, a majority of 78 out of parliament’s 130 members are opposed to the income tax reform bill.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies