Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Jordan’s PM Omar Razzaz orders resignation of cabinet ahead of shake-up

It comes less than a year after his government was sworn in to tackle the country’s deep-seated economic woes

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz's government has announced measures to help citizens cope with increased costs during Ramadan. Reuters
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz's government has announced measures to help citizens cope with increased costs during Ramadan. Reuters

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz told his ministers to tender their resignations on Wednesday for a Cabinet shake-up.

Mr Razzaz’s 28 ministers tendered their resignations less than a year after his government was sworn in, the country's news agency Petra reported.

The government was to tackle the country’s deep-seated economic woes and appease protesters, whose nationwide rallies during Ramadan 2018 brought down his predecessor.

Mr Razzaz, a former World Bank economist and minister of education, formed a government in June 2018 of mainly technocrats and liberals, many of whom serving as ministers for the first time, to tackle economic development, unemployment and basic services.

Despite promoting itself as an open government in tune with citizens’ grievances, the first Razzaz government quickly lost support for not rolling back austerity measures and insistence to push through a law that lowered the threshold on taxable income and did away with most tax exemptions for citizens.

Public confidence in the Razzaz government dropped from 64 per cent to 42 per cent in his first 100 days in office, surveys by the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan showed.

In the latest public opinion poll by the Centre in January, 30 per cent of citizens said government ministers successfully carried out their responsibilities, while 39 per cent supported a vast Cabinet shakeup and 20 per cent backed a limited Cabinet reform.

Mr Razzaz had a minor Cabinet shakeup in October, replacing four ministers after deadly Dead Sea floods.

It is unknown what type of government Mr Razzaz will form or if it is linked to the impending announcement of the US administration’s deal for Palestinians and Israelis.

Many have warned that it will fall short of establishing a Palestinian state and legitimise Israeli control of Jerusalem, where the Jordanian royal family has custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites.

That status is recognised by international law and Jordan’s treaty with Israel.

The government change also comes amid moves in key institutions across the kingdom, starting with a shakeup last week in the General Intelligence Department, a key pillar that advises on decision-making in the country.

Last Wednesday, King Abdullah accepted the resignation of the intelligence agency's director Maj Gen Adnan Jundi and the promotion of Maj Gen Ahmed Husni to the post.

King Abdullah said he was entrusting the new director to lead the security agency through “an intricate phase” with the region “confronted by unprecedented challenges” and the world stage rife with instability and tension.

In the pointed letter, the king also noted that like any other government institution, the department suffered from isolated cases of people who “deviated from providing sincere services to citizens”.

He repeated that such exploitative behavior would not be allowed to harm public opinion and trust in government institutions, stressing that “power and office comes with responsibility and accountability".

Gen Husni said he considered the monarch’s letter as a roadmap to run the agency.

The change in the department, which comes amid a continuing effort by the Jordanian government to clamp down on corruption, has also been accompanied with personnel changes at the royal court.

Updated: May 10, 2019 04:02 AM