Jor­dan King swears in new cabi­net

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

AMMAN, June 14, (Agen­cies): Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah on Thurs­day swore in a new gov­ern­ment led by a for­mer World Bank econ­o­mist and man­dated to re­view a dis­puted tax sys­tem af­ter widespread protests against IMF­driven aus­ter­ity mea­sures.

A gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said the new cabi­net de­cided at a meet­ing af­ter the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony to with­draw a con­tentious per­sonal and cor­po­rate tax bill which the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment had sent to par­lia­ment and trig­gered the protests.

Ab­dul­lah, a rel­a­tively se­cure US ally in a con­flict-rid­den Mid­dle East, ap­pointed Omar al-Raz­zaz, a Har­vard­e­d­u­cated econ­o­mist out­side the ranks of the tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal elite, as prime min­is­ter last week.

Raz­zaz re­places Hani Mulki, a busi­ness-friendly politi­cian who was dis­missed to defuse pub­lic anger that trig­gered some of the largest pop­u­lar protests in years.

Thou­sands of Jor­da­ni­ans took to the streets in Amman and in pro­vin­cial towns ear­lier this month against a se­ries of tax rises since the start of the year. Pro­test­ers called for sack­ing the gov­ern­ment and scrap­ping a tax bill which unions and civic groups blamed for wors­en­ing poverty and un­em­ploy­ment.

For­eign Min­is­ter Ay­man Safadi and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Samir al Mubay­deen kept their posts in Raz­zaz’s 28-mem­ber cabi­net, dom­i­nated by a mix of con­ser­va­tive politi­cians and Western-lean­ing tech­nocrats, in­clud­ing seven women.

“The (eco­nomic) chal­lenges we face are the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of decades, in fact ... nearly two decades,” Raz­zaz said, pledg­ing to ad­dress slug­gish growth and erod­ing living con­di­tions.

Ra­jai Muasher, a con­ser­va­tive politi­cian and in­flu­en­tial banker and among Jor­dan’s wealth­i­est busi­ness­men, was ap­pointed as deputy prime min­is­ter.

Of­fi­cial sources said the gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to main­tain tra­di­tional sup­port for US poli­cies in the Mid­dle East and con­tinue with In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund-guided re­forms.

Raz­zaz ap­pointed long-time vet­eran fi­nance min­istry of­fi­cial Izzed­din Kanakrieh as the new fi­nance min­is­ter to com­plete ne­go­ti­a­tions over a tough three-year pro­gramme with the IMF.

Crit­ics and some of­fi­cials blame the speedy im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­gramme for suc­ces­sive tax hikes this year which in­fu­ri­ated many Jor­da­ni­ans and sparked the wave of protests.

Raz­zaz, who was ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter in the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­knowl­edged af­ter be­ing ap­pointed that the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment had rushed into tax rises and pledged to en­gage a wide cross


Wor­ship­pers gather at the Grand Mosque in Is­lam’s holi­est city of Makkah on June 14 as Mus­lims per­form the Um­rah or lesser pil­grim­ages dur­ing the last week of the Holy Month of Ra­madan, when be­liev­ers ab­stain from food and wa­ter dur­ing daylight hours.

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