Jordanian protesters movement on Friday
Amman – Osama Arrantissi
A sense of urgency returned to Jordan's protest movement Friday, as hundreds of activists in several cities across the country protested against plans to raise energy prices. In a so-called Friday
of "they sold the homeland," hundreds of leftist, youth and independent activists rallied in the Kingdom against an anticipated rise in fuel and electricity prices, they said would be "unjust".
In a series of coordinated protests in 10 out of the country's 12 governorates, activists denounced what they called ongoing "failed economic policies", chanting "Poor citizens of Jordan, you have been robbed by corruption," and "They are raising fuel prices and putting it in their pockets."
Activists in Tafileh, some 179 kilometers southwest of the capital, accused prime minister, Fayez Tarawneh of inaction and of overlooking "obvious" alternatives to raising fuel and electricity prices. Tarawneh, pledged last week to take drastic austerity measures to confront an economic crisis he said was worse than previously believed.
Meanwhile, hundreds of citizens turned out for an Irbid march organised by the National Front for Reform, a coalition of independent activists headed by former premier, Ahmed Obeidat.
During Friday's protests, which were also held in Theeban, Amman, Karak, Salt and Maan, activists called for elected Senates, the dissolution of Parliament and the implementation of wide-scale constitutional reforms leading to parliamentary governments.
The protests come amid multiple statements by government officials over the last week, indicating that decision makers are reviewing subsidies and mulling raising electricity prices in the face of a budget deficit that is expect to surpass JD2 billion by the end of the year.
Most controversial of all these austerity measures, is a new electricity tariff set to raise rates by 10 to 40 percent across all sectors, a move traders warn will lead to a 20 percent rise in the price of basic goods, and which industrialists claim will cost the Kingdom thousands of jobs.
Friday's protests marked a renewed focus by activists on economic concerns, the very issues that spurred the launch of the governorate-based protest movement over one year ago.
Accordingly, the government decided to start another option other than price hikes. It has imposed several measures to tackle the economic crisis, reduce government spending and enhance revenues.
These measures are as follows:
-Abiding all ministries, government departments and institutions to reduce operating costs by 15 percent, and capital by 10 percent , which is in addition to reducing the support of individual entities by 15 percent and reducing the budget of the Ministry of Finance – which includes all ministries- by JD85 million.
-Completing legal and constitutional procedures, in order to amend the law of general sales tax and tax system, through imposing new taxes on luxuries, which is expected to reach JD31 million.
-Restricting the appointments of the ministries of education and health, within transparent and specific regulations.
-Adjusting work permits exemptions.
-Amending visa fees.
-Laying the foundations for restricting the utilisation of medical treatments to citizens who are in real need.
-Stopping the purchase of cars and furniture.
-Reconsidering tax shelter on hotels and raising it from 8 percent to 16 percent, after the ministry of tourism studied the impact of this decision on the tourist season this year.
-Deducting the salaries of the prime minister and ministries by 20 percent, for the benefit of the state treasury, starting this month.