Jordan king calls for review of bill that sparked protests

Jordan king calls for review of bill that sparked protests

Meanwhile, King Abdullah the second has ordered his new prime minister, former education minister Omar al-Razzaz, to launch a national dialog over the planned reforms.

In an appointment letter addressed to the new PM, King Abdullah called on the new government to carry out a wide-ranging review of the kingdom's tax system and come up with a new tax bill.

So far, Jordanian authorities have arrested 60 protesters for "breaking the law", Reuters reports, adding that the demonstrations have also injured 42 security force officers.

The king blamed the country's economic woes on regional instability, the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and a lack of worldwide support.

"Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has navigated years of instability at its borders, including wars in Iraq and Syria and conflict in the Israeli-occupied West Bank", Reuters acknowledges.

"We don't want a change of names, we want a change in policy", one banner read.

Jordan's state-owned Petra news agency indicated that the country's lawmakers might revoke the tax hikes, noting that the speaker of parliament has asked the king for permission to hold a session to shelve the measure, according to Reuters.

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Since January, Jordan - which suffers from high unemployment and has few natural resources - has seen repeated price rises including for staples such as bread, as well as extra taxes on basic goods.

Jordan's king has the final say on all policy issues, and will presumably define the limits of any economic and political reforms that Mr Razzaz wants to implement.

Razzaz is a Harvard-educated economist who served with the World Bank in both Washington and the region.

Protest organizers have said they seek real change, including a rescinding of the tax bill, and that personnel changes at the top are irrelevant without fundamental reforms.

The new prime minister has been opposed to free market reforms which impact the poor, although officials maintain that he will continue with the tough reforms to reduce the country's public debt. The demonstrators say Mulki's resignation has not brought about any changes and that the government must scrap the I-M-F-backed tax bill.

"There's no going back", Jordanian accountant Leen Samer said.

The country's government has imposed a series of economic measures in the last two years, including new laws to increase income taxes by at least 5% and corporation tax by between 20% and 40%. Critics claim the current tax plan unfairly hits the poor and the middle class.

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