Omar al-Razzaz appointed Jordan’s new PM amid protests

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Jordan’s King Abdullah II has formally appointed Omar al-Razzaz as the country’s prime minister and tasked him with forming a new government, a statement by the royal palace said.

The appointment on Tuesday comes a day after King Abdullah II accepted the resignation of former Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki, in a bid to defuse anger amid mass protests over price increases and an income tax reform bill.

How will Jordan deal with public anger?

Jordanians have been demonstrating in the capital, Amman, and in surrounding provinces since last week, calling on the government to scrap the bill. They were also demanding the removal of Mulki, whose government had proposed raising the income tax by at least five percent.

King Abdullah II said in a statement that the new government must conduct a full review of Jordan’s tax system, and launch a national dialogue over the planned income tax law alongside syndicate unions and civil society groups.

Al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, previously served as Jordan’s education minister and is described as a “likeable” character among the Jordanian people.

On Monday evening, the king revealed in a series of Twitter posts via the royal court’s account, that international aid to the country has plummeted. He also attributed the economic crisis in Jordan to “the regional situation” surrounding the country.

But protesters have vowed to continue demonstrating, calling for a complete overhaul of the government’s system and approach.

Organisers of the protests, led by an independent group referred to as Hirak Shababi, or youth movement, told Al Jazeera they have also called for transparency, a clear set of goals, and for overall change in government policies. They also want to reintroduce subsidies on bread and oil process.

The government’s economic reform measures stem from the $723m three-year credit line that it secured from the IMF in 2016.

Unions representing tens of thousands of employees in the country have also called for a general strike on Wednesday, and vowed to continue demonstrating until a new approach to the government’s policies is introduced.

Jordan has long suffered from economic problems and remains heavily reliant on foreign aid.

In the past, Jordanians have protested a sales tax increase and other price hikes, but the new draft bill would increase the burden on Jordan’s middle class and poor specifically.

As of now, a majority of 78 out of parliament’s 130 representatives are opposed to the income tax reform bill.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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