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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Jordan PM reshuffles cabinet to speed up economic reforms 

Amman's economic growth has been hit by regional conflicts

ordan's Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz speaks during a news conference in Amman, Jordan June 19, 2018. Reuters 
ordan's Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz speaks during a news conference in Amman, Jordan June 19, 2018. Reuters 

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz undertook a significant reshuffle of his cabinet on Thursday in an attempt to speed up IMF-guided economic reforms.

Twelve ministers were removed from office and nine new ministers were sworn in.

Three ministries were combined in what appeared to be a bid to show the new government was serious about cutting costs.

Mr Razzaz has pledged to restore public trust in a country where officials are held responsible for the failure to revive economic growth and fight corruption.

He removed the ministers of health and higher education over alleged nepotism, reducing the cabinet from 29 to 27 ministers, to calm public discontent over corruption and economic hardships.

He kept the key interior, finance and foreign ministry portfolios unchanged.

A royal decree was issued approving the amendments to the cabinet, the Twitter account for the Royal Hashemite Court reported.

The move includes the establishment of the Ministry of Administrative and Institutional Development and the replacement of ministers in key domestic positions such as agriculture, water, education and social development.

Mr Razzaz appointed Raed Abu Saud as the Minister of Water, Bassam Talhouni as Minister of Justice and Ghazi Al Zabin as Minister of Health.

Ibrahim Al Shehaidah was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Environment.

The 12 ministers submitted their resignations during Wednesday's parliamentary session.

The changes come just four months after Mr Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, was appointed by King Abdullah.

The prime minister's predecessor, Hani Al Mulki, resigned to defuse nationwide protests over his government's attempts to implement IMF-approved austerity measures, including tax hikes.

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A recent poll by the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies after 100 days of the Razzaz government found that only 30 per cent of the public believed it was “heading in the right direction”.

The public had high expectations when Mr Razzaz took office, yet the reshuffle gives very little hope for reforms, a former Jordanian official told The National.

Mr Razzaz promised to take a more inclusive path by appointing ministers with technocrat backgrounds but the new line-up has dampened hopes of real change.

The reshuffle could bring people back on to the streets as the appointment of ministers in the new cabinet has not been "transparent", he said.

Union leaders who toppled the previous prime minister through demonstrations have pledged to go back to the streets if Mr Razzaz does not deliver.

In recent years Jordan’s economic growth has been hit by regional conflicts weighing on investor sentiment and as consumer demand generated by Syrian refugees staying in the kingdom receded, according to the IMF.

Last week, the UAE extended $833 million (Dh3 billion) to Jordan as part of a $2.5 billion support package provided together with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to help stabilise its economy.

The three countries deposited more than $1bn in Jordan's central bank as part of the package, with $333.3m each from the UAE and Saudi Arabia and $500m from Kuwait, according to a government statement.