Popular anger rising in Jordan, with price increases and a debt ratio nearing 100%
Translated today by our Mideastwire.com:
On February 22, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following lead editorial: “The decisions taken by Hani al-Mulki’s government to raise the taxes, prices and levies… upon the request of the IMF, with its known traditional recipes, subjected that government, once the taxes and prices bit the citizens – both rich and poor – with their fangs, to a wide popular surge. The fact that the first protests erupted in Al-Karak (40 kilometres south of the capital) could have carried an additional and concealed political meaning, as the latter has not yet awakened from the surprising terrorist attack in December 2016, which caused the death of ten people, including two civilians, a Canadian tourist and the four assailants, and was followed by a wide campaign of arrests. However, the protests quickly expanded to the Tafilah, Madaba and As-Salt governorates, and reached the point of demanding the toppling of the government, which is accused of failing to face the economic problems.
“The government justified its harsh decisions by the fact that they “aim to salvage national economy and lower the budgetary deficit.” Consequently, it increased the sales tax on many goods, and raised the gasoline, passports, cigarettes, sodas and internet prices, which was met with condemnation by the Jordanian citizens, at a time when deputies in parliament drafted a memo to withhold confidence from the government, and opposition movements voiced their disgruntlement inside and outside parliament. The recent developments place the Jordanian Cabinet in a difficult position, as the country’s debt has reached around $37 billion, i.e. 95.6% of GDP, while the interests and instalments have reached around 2.5 billion… In the meantime, the Jordanian elite enjoy wide academic, scientific and political experience.
“And in the presence of a democratic economic and political system, they would be able to apply previously-tested recipes in smaller and larger countries than Jordan, instead of blindly succumbing to the IMF’s conditions… Indeed, the latter countries did not just abide by the IMF’s recipes, and widely relied on various forms of economic protectionism, while supporting modern industries and informational and digital economy. In Jordan, development could also affect other successful sectors, such as the tourism, alternative energy and service economy sectors, and the media directed towards the Arab surrounding. The economic question is therefore a purely political one, linked to the Jordanian elite’s ability to learn from previous, successful experiences, and ensure a political system capable of opening the country to political, economic and scientific competencies, who would participate and offer solutions in a world that is growing more competitive, brutal and dangerous by the day.
“Popular anger towards the government is understandable and rightful. And part of its importance resides in its ability to urge the ruling Jordanian institution and political elite to think strategically on the long run, and not rely on fast and harsh solutions that would burn the poor citizens, pushing them to yell and shout, even resort to futile suicidal solutions based on the ideologies of retaliation and death if they do not find any other outlet.”