AMMAN (Reuters) – Hundreds of Jordanians protested on Friday in central Amman in the first demonstration against a new, IMF-backed tax bill that parliament passed this month.
Around 300 people chanting anti-government slogans gathered near a parking lot where police had imposed a cordon to prevent them from marching to the office of Prime Minister Omar Razzaz.
Scores chanted “Go away Razzaz!”, “Government of robbers!” and accused the government of failing to tackle high-level corruption and to end the squandering of public funds.
Jordan’s mainly pro-government parliament approved a new IMF-backed tax law nearly two weeks ago that imposes steep tax hikes to narrow the record public debt and help get the economy, hit by conflict in the region, back on track.
King Abdullah replaced the government in June after its push to impose an earlier tax bill led to a rare wave of protests, only a few months after hefty tax hikes were imposed on basic commodities. That tax bill was reworked into the new bill that parliament has now approved.
Popular discontent has in recent weeks grown with the Razzaz government. Many say that it has introduced only cosmetic changes to the earlier tax law and has failed to deliver on pledges of cutting waste and curbing corruption.
Many politicians and economists blame the IMF-inspired austerity plan Jordan is undertaking for worsening the plight of poorer people and squeezing the middle class while widening disparities between the rich and poor.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)