Jordan braces for more anti-austerity protests


AMMAN: Jordanian authorities deployed hundreds of riot police in the capital and warned activists to stay within the law on Thursday ahead of another protest against the government’s tough austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund.

Large demonstrations in the summer managed to bring down the previous government over an unpopular IMF-backed tax bill.

Protesters have held sporadic protests over the past two weeks and a judicial source said authorities had detained several people for chanting slogans critical of King Abdullah as well as the government.

“(For) anyone who breaches the law there will be punishment,” government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat told reporters on Thursday.

“There are those who want to sow destruction… We must safeguard Jordan’s stability and security,” she said, adding that the government wanted dialogue.

The latest protests eruped after a largely pliant parliament last month approved a tax bill widely seen as making few changes to the unpopular law scrapped after the summer demonstrations.

Many Jordanians say the government, which faces a record public debt of around $40 billion and desperately needs to raise revenue, is eroding the disposable incomes of poorer and middle class Jordanians while letting the wealthy off the hook.

The protesters complain that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, appointed by King Abdullah after the summer protests, has not delivered on promises to jail corrupt officials and businessmen.

They also say he has sought public support for tough economic measures while failing to curb lavish public expenditure and improve public services, and that he should resign.

Jordan suffers from high unemployment, with regional conflicts weighing on business confidence. Poor economic growth has reduced tax revenues, forcing Jordan to borrow heavily abroad and also to resort to more domestic financing.

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