Jordan’s king appoints new PM amid anti-austerity protests

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Amman, June 5 (IANS) The King of Jordan appointed an economist as the new Prime Minister, the royal household said on Tuesday, a day after the ex-Prime Minister resigned amid widespread protests against austerity measures and a controversial income tax reform bill.

King Abdullah II asked Omar al-Razzaz, Minister of Education in the outgoing government of Hani al-Mulki and a former economist at the World Bank, to form a new government and to engage in dialogue with the country’s political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations to reach an agreement on the draft income tax law, reports Efe news.

“Your government’s top priority should be activating the energies of the Jordanian economy and stimulating it in order to restore its capacity to spur growth, competitiveness and its ability to generate jobs,” the King’s statement said.

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The new tax legislation has been pushed by the International Monetary Fund with an eye toward reducing the country’s deficit and increasing the number of taxpayers.

“The new government should carry out a comprehensive review of the taxation system and the tax burden in such a manner that stops (the government’s) continued resort to indirect taxes that do not achieve justice and balance between the incomes of the rich and poor,” he added.

Al-Mulki stepped down from his post on Monday, after daily protests against price fuel hikes, which ranged between 4.8 percent and 5.5 percent, and the new tax bill.

The protests, which began last week, are Jordan’s largest in years, and a national umbrella organization for trade unions said a general strike was set to take place on Wednesday, following a successful strike a week earlier.

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