Jordanians stage price protests

At least 4,000 people take to the streets to condemn poor economic policies and call for the government to step down.

    Thousands took to the streets in a protest last week similar to the one that took place in Amman on Friday [AFP]

    Thousands of Jordanians have staged a protest in the capital, Amman, against the country's economic policies.

    The march started after weekly prayers on Friday, with protesters demanding "bread and freedom" and calling for government officials to step down.

    Police handed out bottles of water and juice to the demonstrators, who carried banners reading, "We demand social justice and freedom", "No to oppression, yes to change" and, "We need a national salvation government".

    Mohammad Khatib, a police spokesman, said at least 4,000 people took part in the protest that was organised by 14 different political parties, including the country's largest, the Islamic Action Front.

    Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in a similar protest on Friday last week.

    The uprising in Tunisia which ousted the country's president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has inspired dissidents across the Arab world and sparked protests in countries including Algeria, Jordan and Egypt.

    In Egypt, activists are planning to mark the country's national police day on January 25 as the beginning of a peaceful uprising against corruption, poverty and unemployment.

    Since Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, six people in Egypt have attempted to set themselves ablaze in a protest aginst unemployment. One 25-year-old man has died so far.

    The attempted public suicides are an apparent copycat replays of last month's self-immolation of a 26-year-old man in Tunisia, which triggered the country's popular revolt.

    Short-term solutions

    In the face of popular discontent, Samir Rifai, the Jordanian prime minister, announced a $283 million plan on Thursday to raise salaries of government staff as well as the pensions of retired government employees and servicemen.

    The $28 a month raise came nine days after a $169 million plan to improve living conditions.

    The current minimum wage is $211 a month.

    But the country's opposition and others say the new measures are not enough as poverty levels are running at 25 per cent in the desert kingdom. Amman is the most expensive city in the Arab world, according to several independent studies.

    Official unemployment is about 14 per cent in the country of six million people and 70 per cent of them are under the age of 30. Some estimates put the jobless figure at 30 per cent.

    A $1.5 billion deficit, equivalent to five per cent of gross domestic product, is expected on this year's $8.8 billion budget.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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