Jordan king calls for review of bill that sparked protests

Jordan's King Replaces Embattled PM to Defuse Anti-Government Protests

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Jordan's King Abdullah replaced his prime minister Hani Mulki on Monday in a move to defuse the biggest protests in years, over International Monetary Fund-backed reforms that have hit the poor.

"We must elect the government, so that when errors are made they will be responsible to the people who elected them", he said.

He also wants a dialogue over the planned income tax bill which has approval from Jordan's chief lender, the International Monetary Fund.

While Jordan has remained relatively stable during recent periods of turmoil in the Middle East, the country's debt has reached $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of the country's GDP, and the country relies heavily on global aid.

Jordan which is a staunch U.S. ally with a peace treaty with Israel, has remained the one stable country throughout years of regional turmoil.

The king said the new cabinet should review the tax system and immediately start a dialogue over the draft income tax law, which protesters have staunchly opposed.

Since January, Jordan - which suffers from high unemployment and has few natural resources - has seen repeated price rises including for staples such as bread, as well as extra taxes on basic goods.

Late Monday, the king had warned Jordan was "at a crossroads", blaming the economic woes on regional instability, the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and a lack of worldwide support.

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Price increases, after a steep rise in general sales tax and the abolition of bread subsidies earlier this year, have brought thousands of people onto the streets of Amman and other parts of Jordan in recent days.

Protest organizers have said they seek real change, including a rescinding of the tax bill, and that personnel changes at the top are irrelevant without fundamental reforms.

The country's government has imposed a series of economic measures in the last two years, including new laws to increase income taxes by at least 5% and corporation tax by between 20% and 40%.

They waved Jordanian flags and signs reading "we will not kneel" - some appeared to be treated for injuries.

A majority of deputies - 78 out of 130 - have said they will vote against the draft legislation.

Jordan has a public debt of some $35 billion, equivalent to around 90 percent of its gross domestic product.

King Abdullah said the key challenge facing Jordan is the slow economic growth.

He added that the closure of the borders with the kingdom's main export markets, war-torn Syria and Iraq, and the cost of securing those frontiers had added to Jordan's economic woes.

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