King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests

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The King of Jordan has blamed regional turmoil for worsening economic woes that have sparked angry protests.

State media quoted King Abdullah as telling Prime Minister Hani Mulki and many members of his government the situation was not of Jordan’s own making.

Jordan’s government has prompted anger by proposing new laws to increase income taxes by at least 5% and corporation tax by between 20% and 40%.

It is the latest in a series of economic measures since the country secured a $723m three-year overdraft from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest in Amman King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests skynews jordan protests 4327034
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Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest in Amman

The credit line, which aims to help the country cut its $37bn debt, has come at a cost, with the government imposing austerity measures and abolishing bread subsidies.

On Saturday evening, the 56-year-old king called a crisis meeting after a fourth night of protests over the new bill in cities across the country.

While stressing that the state must maintain a balance between the amount of money it spends and the quality of services it provides, he called on the government to reach a consensus on the draft law that does not “burden people”.

“His majesty stressed that self-reliance is not just a slogan and does not mean simply imposing taxes,” state news agency Petra said.

“It means the existence of an effective government agency capable of providing quality services and attracting investment.”

King Abdullah presides over a meeting of top government officials amid a crisis over tax laws King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests skynews jordan abdullah 4327039
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King Abdullah presides over a meeting of top officials amid a crisis over tax laws. Pic: Petra

It said the king expressed confidence that Jordanian people would overcome their difficulties, but added he stressed the challenges facing the economy were due to the difficult regional conditions.

Petra quoted Abdullah as saying: “The problem does not lie in Jordan. Jordanians are ready to sacrifice for their country, and with their strong resolve, we will persevere and overcome these challenges, as we have surmounted others before.”

Angry protests broke out in cities across Jordan on Saturday night over the IMF-backed austerity measures.

About 3,000 people clashed with police and security personnel near the prime minister’s office in Amman until the early hours, waving Jordanian flags and signs reading “we will not kneel”.

Jordanian protesters and security personnel tend to an unconscious man King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests skynews jordan protest 4327031
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Jordanian protesters and security personnel tend to an unconscious man

Some protesters were photographed being treated for what appeared to be injuries.

The comments from Abdullah were a rare intervention by the king in Jordan’s constitutional monarchy, where executive power lies with the government and laws are made by parliament, with the king as head of state.

According to Europarl, an EU Parliament think tank, the impact on Jordan of the civil war in Syria has been “immense”.

Jordan is home to around 650,000 refugees from Syria, with an estimated two out of three of those living below the poverty line and likely to stay in the country for “many years”, the think tank said.

The UK government has pledged to provide £70m in aid in 2017-18 to support the government of Jordan, one of its strongest allies in the Middle East.

Members of the Jordanian gendarmerie detain a protester  King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests King Abdullah of Jordan blames regional turmoil for economic crisis amid protests skynews jordan protests 4327029
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Members of the Jordanian gendarmerie detain a protester

The Department for International Development (DfID) says on its website: “Conflict and instability in Jordan would lead to serious humanitarian, political, economic and security consequences for the region and the UK’s national interests, especially on extremism and migration.”

It adds: “Jordan is a pillar of stability in a volatile, fragile and conflict-affected region. But it is struggling to cope with the strain of hosting around 650,000 registered Syrian refugees since the start of the Syria crisis and a growing threat from Daesh (Islamic State) and other extremist groups.”

In addition, with Jordan being across the border from the West Bank, it has since 1948 become home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.



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