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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Jordan protests will continue says union leaders

The rare nationwide strike brought the capital to a standstill on Wednesday

Jordanians gathering outside the Jordanian professional associations offices during a strike protest against new taxes in Amman, Jordan, 06 June 2018. Amel Pain / EPA
Jordanians gathering outside the Jordanian professional associations offices during a strike protest against new taxes in Amman, Jordan, 06 June 2018. Amel Pain / EPA

Jordan’s professional associations said on Wednesday they would cancel an ongoing nationwide strike to give the government more time to respond to the economic crisis, but later responded to protester demands by saying demonstrations would continue.

For the past week thousands of Jordanians have been marching against a proposed income tax law in the biggest protests in the country since the 2011 Arab uprisings. King Abdullah accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Mulki on Monday and asked former World Bank economist and outgoing education minister Omar Razzaz to form a new government and seek consensus on the tax bill controversy.

Jordan's government is facing pressing economic issues. The National
Jordan's government is facing pressing economic issues. The National

As the strike brought the capital Amman to a standstill, the head of the professional associations, Ali Abbous, addressed a crowd of demonstrators Wednesday, asking them to give the government time to formulate a reform plan.

The protesters, which included Jordanians from all walks life, responded in anger against his remarks. They vowed to continue demonstrations until the proposed draft income tax law is cancelled.

“It is a good step that the prime minister was replaced, but this does not solve all our problems," said Layla Mehyar, 28, who works with an aid organisation. “We want the government to withdraw the income tax law.”

Ordinary Jordanians are suffering while the economy languishes. The National
Ordinary Jordanians are suffering while the economy languishes. The National

Replacing the prime minister is seen a placating gesture, and one that the King has deployed previously, but its effects are likely to be temporary. “If the government does not withdraw the tax law, people will continue protesting,” said 40-year-old Omar Shoqair.

Following pressure from protesters and an emergency meeting on the side-lines of Wednesday’s protest, the professional associations announced that they would continue to support protesting until the draft income tax law is revoked.

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The draft law, which the government approved last week, would increase both individual and corporate tax.

Reforms introduced earlier in the year saw prices rise significantly for a range of consumer goods, but provoked only minor protests. But workers say unusually quiet business over Ramadan and the proposed imposition of new economic burdens made protest unavoidable.

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