Jordan withdraws controversial tax hikes as angry protests continue

Jordan withdraws controversial tax hikes as angry protests continue
Jordan's proposed income tax law looks set to be withdrawn. as anti-austerity protests continued despite the resignation of the prime minister.
2 min read
07 June, 2018
Jordan is generally considered an "island of stability" in the Middle East [Getty]
A deal has been reached to withdraw a proposed controversial income tax law, which has sparked protests across the country, Jordan's new prime minister announced on Thursday.

Omar al-Razzaz hinted on Thursday that "an agreement has been found to withdraw the bill", but no date has been set for parliament to send the legislation back to the government.

Jordan has been gripped by strikes and protests in a rare show of dissent.

The draft bill aimed to increase taxes on employees by at least five percent, and on companies by between 20 and 40 percent.

Demonstrations escalated yesterday as anger over the economic conditions continued to boil, and a security guard working for the police force was stabbed by a protester.

King Abdullah hoped to stem the current by earlier announcing a call to review the law, a move that while welcomed by trade unions, did nothing to deter them from insisting on the general strike called.

Late on Monday, the king had warned Jordan was "at a crossroads", blaming the economic woes on regional instability, the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, and a lack of international support.

But protesters have said they seek real change, including scrapping the tax bill, dissolving parliament, and sacking corrupt officials, and that appointing a new premier without fundamental reforms is irrelevant. 

Razzaz was appointed as a new premier by the king to quell the popular protests, however, it is unclear whether he will have such a mandate to implement any reforms.

The draft income tax is the latest in a series of measures of economic reforms since Amman secured a $723-million three-year credit line from the IMF in 2016.

A new price hike for electricity and fuels announced last week was revoked following orders from the king as protests continued to swell.