Jordan Withdraws Tax Bill That Fueled Nationwide Protests

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The decision to withdraw the bill, which proposed increasing the tax rate on workers by at least five percentage points and on businesses by 20 to 40 percentage points, was lauded by many in Jordan, where the official unemployment rate is 18 percent and poverty rates are even higher. Inflation rates grew 50 percent from 2006 to 2017, yet incomes are hardly budging.

Jordan, an important ally in the region for the United States, is largely deprived of natural resources. It has depended on regular foreign aid, and its economic pressures have been compounded by a huge influx of refugees, including hundreds of thousands from war-torn Syria.

Last week, thousands of Jordanians began taking to the streets, in the largest protests in the country since the Arab Spring in 2011. They have drawn diverse crowds, including engineers, doctors, taxi drivers, university students and unemployed young people, and they spread nationwide when more than 30 labor unions staged the largest strike in years.

Even after the prime minister resigned on Monday, demonstrators kept up the pressure, protesting daily, calling for the tax law to be withdrawn and for an end to what they perceive as endemic corruption and a lack of accountability.

Maintaining stability in Jordan is a top American priority in the region. In 2015, the Obama administration and Jordan signed a three-year agreement in which the United States pledged $1 billion in assistance annually, subject to the approval of Congress. More recently, Washington pledged $6.3 billion in aid through 2022, making Jordan one of the top recipients of American foreign assistance.

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