Economy and Income Tax Law Trigger Nation-wide Protests in Jordan

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Hundreds of Jordanians demonstrated in the capital Amman for a third consecutive day on Saturday against price hikes and an income tax draft law driven by International Monetary Fund recommendations to slash its public debt.

Jordan's senate met Sunday for a special session after another night of protests across the country against IMF-backed austerity measures including a draft income tax law and price hikes.

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the capital Amman and main provincial towns again on Sunday, extending days of protests that have shaken Jordan, a staunch USA ally that has remained stable through years of turmoil in the region.

They said the income tax law does not serve the economic and social interests of the people.

And since January, Jordan is seeing a repeating price increase affecting even the simple basic goods price such as bread.

The planned tax rise was preceded by a series of price increases, most recently for fuel.

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The IMF-backed measures are now believed to be one of the biggest economic protests in past five years.

Riots and protests erupted throughout the country, resulting in road closures, burning tires, chanting of anti-government slogans, parking cars in the middle of main highways in Amman.

There have been scattered protests in provincial towns, prompting police in some places to use teargas.

"Women have started looking in rubbish bins to find food for their children, and every day we're hit by price hikes and new taxes", said one protester.

Another protestor and a Bank employee Mohammad Shalabiya, 28, said the demonstrators wanted "to tell the government that the citizen's income isn't suitable for this kind of law and that we have a right to demonstrate".

The protests widened on Saturday after Mulki refused to scrap a bill increasing personal and corporate taxes, saying it was up to parliament to decide. Speaking of the issue, Lina Rsheidat, a 35-year-old housewife says the proposed law was "unjust" and would "harm the Jordanian people".

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A Jordanian political analyst has warned that discontent could "snowball. triggering a domestic crisis".

According to the recent official estimates collected, 20 percent of Jordanians are on the verge of poverty while 18.5 percent of the population remains.

Jordan's economy has struggled to grow under chronic deficits as private foreign capital and aid flows have slipped.

King Abdullah on Saturday called on parliament to lead a "comprehensive and reasonable national dialogue" on the new tax law.

Amman has repeatedly urged worldwide donors to provide extra funds to help it host them.

King Abdullah, appeared to back Mulki, was quoted by state media as saying both parliament and government should engage in a "national" dialogue to reach a compromise over the bill.

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The loan, meant to support economic and financial reforms, has the long term objective of reducing Jordan's public debt from about 94 percent of GDP to 77 percent by 2021.