Jordan's king appoints economist to form new government, calls for dialogue and stability

Reuters , Tuesday 5 Jun 2018

The King meets with a number of media officials, editors of daily newspapers and journalists (Photo: Jordan News Agency)

Jordan's King Abdullah tasked a former World Bank economist on Tuesday with forming a new government and urged talks to achieve a planned income tax law that has provoked the country's biggest protests in years.

The king appointed Harvard-educated Omar al-Razzaz after accepting Hani Mulki's resignation as prime minister, attempting to defuse public anger over IMF-driven reforms.

Price increases have brought thousands of people onto the streets of Amman and other parts of Jordan in recent days, shaking the U.S. ally which has remained stable through years of regional turmoil.

The king said the new cabinet should review the country's tax system and immediately start a dialogue over the draft income tax law, which the demonstrators have staunchly opposed. He said political parties, unions and civil society groups must take part in the talks.

"Your government's priority must be to launch the potential of the Jordanian economy ... to restore its ability for growth and providing job opportunities," he said in a letter designating Razzaz.

The monarch, widely seen as a unifying force, addressed the protestors' demands. He said price rises had placed a burden on Jordanians and called for improving services, blaming regional instability for hampering the country's sluggish economy.

Razzaz served with the World Bank in both Washington and the Mideast region, and was education minister in the outgoing government.

Officials said he had been an opponent of reforms that hurt the poor. His appointment nevertheless sends a message to foreign donors that Jordan will press ahead with reforms, though in a gradual way, they said.

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