Jor­dan cabi­net has fresh faces but same prob­lems

The National - News - - NEWS WORLD - SUHA MA’AYEH Am­man

King Ab­dul­lah swore in Jor­dan’s new gov­ern­ment on Thurs­day, led by for­mer World Bank economist Omar Raz­zaz who will now at­tempt to tackle tax re­forms while avoid­ing the na­tion­wide protests that brought down his pre­de­ces­sor.

Six­teen of the 28-min­is­ter gov­ern­ment re­tained their po­si­tions but the new cabi­net in­cludes seven women, the largest fe­male po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the coun­try’s his­tory.

Ra­jai Muasher, a banker and prom­i­nent busi­ness­man, was ap­pointed as deputy prime min­is­ter and min­is­ter of state for a se­cond time.

Mr Muasher is an ad­vo­cate for a greater role for the pri­vate sec­tor in the econ­omy, which is dom­i­nated by a bloated pub­lic sec­tor. He was thought to be against the in­come tax pro­pos­als of for­mer prime min­is­ter Hani Al Mulki.

The ed­i­tor in chief of Jor­dan’s in­de­pen­dent Al Ghad news­pa­per, Ju­mana Gh­neimat, was ap­pointed as gov­ern­ment spokes­woman with the tough job of get­ting the pub­lic on board with Mr Raz­zaz’s yet to be an­nounced re­forms. She was a critic of the for­mer gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic pol­icy.

Mr Raz­zaz’s ap­point­ment was wel­comed be­cause of his re­formist im­age and cre­den­tials, but ex­perts have said the wider cabi­net line-up was lack­lus­tre, damp­en­ing hopes of real change.

“The new gov­ern­ment is a rein­car­na­tion of the previous gov­ern­ment, it will face a tough job sell­ing it­self to the pub­lic and gain­ing their trust,” said Jawad Anani, an economist and a for­mer deputy prime min­is­ter.

“Mr Muasher will face a tough job bal­anc­ing peo­ple’s con­cerns about fur­ther aus­ter­ity mea­sures and the IMF de­mands,” said Imad Hmoud, an in­de­pen­dent busi­ness an­a­lyst.

Jor­dan’s econ­omy has been se­ri­ously af­fected by re­gional crises, bor­der clo­sures that dis­rupted ex­port routes, in­ter­rup­tions of gas sup­plies from Egypt and an in­flux of Syr­ian refugees.

Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Kuwait have pledged a US$2.5 bil­lion (Dh9.18bn) aid pack­age for the coun­try.

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