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Jordan protesters reject govt plans to hike prices

More than 1000 demonstrators marking Jordan's 1949 independence decry tax hikes and demand reform and action against corruption, pointing at the government who just passed a vote of confidence

AFP, Friday 25 May 2012
Riot policemen stand guard as protesters demonstrate to demand for political reform after Friday prayers in Amman May 11, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
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Demonstrators marked Jordan's 1949 independence from British rule on Friday by demanding reform and rejecting government plans to hike commodity prices and taxes to offset a $3 billion (2.4 billion euro) budget deficit.

"No independence without reform. Do not set the country on fire by raising prices," more than 1,000 people, including opposition Islamists, trade unionists and youth groups, chanted as they marched in central Amman.

"People's pockets are the red line. Who is responsible for corruption and high debts?" read a banner carried by some of the protesters, as others waved national flags.

The demonstration came a day after MPs gave a vote of confidence to Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh's government, which plans to increase commodity prices and taxes as part of an austerity package to avoid the huge deficit in the 2012 $9.6 billion budget.

The government has warned that the deficit could exacerbate the overall debt, raising it to $24.6 billion by the end of this year, but economic analysts and the Islamists say the austerity package is "very dangerous" and likely to aggravate political instability.

"We need a government that solves the country's economic problems, but not at the expense of people's pockets. Beware of increasing the prices. People are no longer capable of handling more burdens," said Wael Saqqa, a prominent trade unionist.

"The government should fight corruption instead of raising prices. Only reform will protect the nation."

Jordan has witnessed regular street protests since January 2011 demanding sweeping reforms and tough action against corruption.

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