FILE PHOTO: King of Jordan Abdullah II addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France January 15, 2020. REUTERS
Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday swore in a new prime minister and Cabinet, tasking the new government to manage the country through an economic and health crisis as it faces a growing wave of coronavirus infections.
The king appointed Bisher al-Khasawneh as the new prime minister after his predecessor, Omar Razzaz, resigned last week. Al-Khasawneh has held a number of Cabinet posts in the past and served as an adviser to the king.
Abdullah frequently shakes up his government, appointing a new prime minister and Cabinet every year or two. Although no major policy changes are expected, the government shuffle appears to be aimed at assuring the public that he is responsive during difficult times.
The new Cabinet consists of 31 ministers, but more than half of them have served in previous Cabinets as well. One of them, Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi, kept his job.
Jordan has suffered in recent years, with its economy burdened by an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq as well as domestic challenges such as high unemployment, poverty and corruption.
After a strict lockdown appeared to bring the coronavirus crisis under control, the rate of infections has skyrocketed since the economy was reopened.
The previous government was criticized for its handling of the pandemic. There was widespread public anger over a lack of freedom and right of expression after authorities imposed a state of emergency and lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic.
In his letter designating Khaswneh as prime minister, Abdullah said the formation of this government comes at an ``exceptional time'' and called on the new government to improve the healthcare system as it grapples with the coronavirus crisis.
Al-Khasawneh vowed in a letter to the king to ``address the coronavirus epidemic by balancing the citizens' health and sustainability of work and production and reducing the consequences on the national economy.''
Jordan has 24,926 confirmed virus cases, including 181 fatalities.
Al-Khasawneh will oversee parliamentary elections Nov. 10.