Jordan’s King Abdullah tasked a former World Bank economist with forming a new government
The King appointed Harvard-educated King Abdullah after accepting Hani Mulki’s resignation as prime minister, attempting to defuse public anger over IMF-driven reforms, Reuters reported. Recent price increases, after a steep rise in general sales tax and the abolition of bread subsidies earlier this year, have brought thousands of people onto the streets of Amman and other parts of Jordan.
He has also called for broad talks on a planned income tax law that has provoked the country’s biggest protests in years. The King said the new cabinet should review the tax system and immediately start a dialogue over the draft income tax law, which protesters have staunchly opposed. He said political parties, unions and civil society groups must take part in the talks, according to Reuters.
Widely seen as a unifying force, King Abdullah addressed the protesters’ demands. He said price rises had placed a burden on Jordanians and called for improving services, blaming regional instability for hampering the sluggish economy.
Razzaz served with the World Bank in both Washington and the Mideast region, and was education minister in the outgoing government. Reports on Monday of Razzaz’s impending appointment did not entirely quell the protests, with around 2,000 people continuing overnight rallies for the tax law be withdrawn.
Officials said he had been an opponent of reforms that hurt the poor. His appointment nevertheless sends a message to foreign donors that Jordan will press ahead with reforms, albeit gradually, Reuters added.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a three-year arrangement with Jordan in 2016 to support economic and financial reform, aiming to lower public debt and encourage structural change.