New Jordan PM says he will cancel tax bill
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s newly appointed prime minister on Thursday said he will cancel a controversial tax bill and reconsider the legislation in consultation with groups and political parties.
Omar Razzaz made the announcement after days of large public protests against the bill. Opponents had said the bill was unfair to the poor and middle class.
“The government will withdraw the draft tax law, after the formation of the government,” Razzaz said at a meeting with union leaders.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting at his office, Razzaz said the economy has been hit hard by an influx of some 1.3 million refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Syria in recent years. He said the refugees have overwhelmed public services and inflated the ranks of unemployed.
“To also increase the tax bill in a way that did not involve enough consultation with the segments of society was a little bit hard to take,” he said.
He praised both protesters and police for handling the protests without violence.
“If anything I think this says that Jordan is a strong country politically and civically. We have a committed population, and people express themselves through peaceful means, but we are going through very very difficult times,” he said.
He called on the international community to help Jordan cope with the refugee crisis.
King Abdullah II appointed Razzaz on Tuesday, replacing Hani Mulki, who quit amid the mounting protests against the tax plan.
Underpinning the sustained demonstrations is growing public anger about an economic and political system that many Jordanians view as impenetrable, with benefits reserved for small elites.
The country has also grappled with an economic slowdown, largely linked to regional turmoil, as well as high unemployment and rising public debt. The International Monetary Fund has sought sweeping economic changes, including subsidy cuts and price hikes for fuel, electricity and other basics.
It’s not clear how the king, who has final say over policy, will appease public anger, while not rolling back the IMF-mandated overhaul.