SHAFAQNA – Thousands of Jordanians protested against price hikes and an income tax reform bill last week but according to a Kuwaiti scholar this crisis may be a strategy from USA and Israel to perform the idea of Alternative Homeland for Palestinians in Jordan.
Jordan is struggling to bring the ratio of its debt to gross domestic product down from 94 percent to a target of 75 percent, while contending with unemployment rates that have hit a two-decade high of about 18 per cent. It has also taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees and has endured headwinds of the civil war in Syria and instability in Iraq, two of its main trading partners. There have been tensions between Jordan and Saudi Arabia amid fears that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will back an Arab-Israeli peace plan that is deemed harmful to Palestinian interests. Jordan borders Israel and is home to a large population of Palestinians, The Financial Times reported.
For a country that has long suffered from economic problems and has historically been heavily reliant on foreign aid, Jordan’s economic reform measures stem from a $723m three-year credit line that it secured from the IMF in 2016. Following the 2011 Arab uprisings, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) made a strategic decision to help the Jordanian and Moroccan monarchies with a five-year agreement worth over $5bn each. But this aid flow ceased with the end of the Arab Spring and shifting alliances in the region, Al Jazeera News reprted.
According to the Financial Times, Three [Persian] Gulf states have pledged $2.5bn in aid to Jordan to help Amman contain anger over austerity measures that has triggered mass protests across the country. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait made the commitment at a summit called days after demonstrations caused Jordan’s King Abdullah to sack prime minister Hani Mulki last week.
Thousands of Jordanians protested against price hikes and an income tax reform bill last week. The protesters called for a long-term fiscal plan, more transparency, an end to corruption and, crucially, a complete overhaul of the government’s approach to economic and social policies. The protesters also called for the reintroduction of subsidies on bread and oil prices that were revoked earlier this year. In 2018 alone, the cost of fuel has increased five times, and electricity bills have shot up by 55 percent.
While this promise by the three [Persian] Gulf states may decrease some of the economic pressure facing Jordan’s new government, it will likely not convince the masses that real change is imminent.” They say the incoming aid will not “save” the country from its structural economic problems and crippling public debt, currently close to $40bn. Bani-Melham, a lawyer in Jordan’s capital, Amman says a pledge by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to provide Jordan with $2.5bn in aid is not going to solve the kingdom’s unemployment problem, nor will it achieve social justice.
The new aid package has led Jordanians to believe that their country, which is hosting more than 650,000 Syrian refugees, may now be inclined to side with Saudi Arabia in regional conflicts.
“Nothing comes for free,” Soubh, the journalist, says. According to her, many who welcomed the latest aid pledge did so with “caution”.
The demonstrations led to a cabinet reshuffle and a pledge by the country’s new prime minister, Omar al-Razzaz, to repeal an income tax bill that had been part of a series of reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Al-Razzaz, who previously served as the outgoing government’s education minister, also pledged to engage in dialogue to reach consensus on a new tax law and economic reform.
“At least, for the first time, Jordanians feel they’ve established an open line of communication with Razzaz.”
Locals who took to the streets are hopeful that under al-Razzaz would “finally” take serious steps to hold corrupt officials to account, a key demand for protesters.
Though many Jordanians feel optimistic that Razzaz’ incoming government will answer to their demands, they also feel empowered by their ability to demonstrate and bring about change once again, if necessary.
“If our demands aren’t met, we will always have the fourth circle to return to,” said Nofal, referring to the scene of the latest protests.
“But we hope this government meets, and exceeds, our expectations.”, Al Jazeera News reprted.
However, Abdallah al-Nafisi, the Kuwaiti scholar revealed that the current events in Jordan is a more important matter. Once again Ariel Sharon’s idea of Alternative Homeland is taken under consideration by the American and Israeli strategists and this crisis may be a strategy to form an alternative homeland for Palestinians in Jordan.
Read more from Shafaqna: