Positive vibes in Jordan after scrapping of tax law, Gulf aid
AMMAN - While sceptics remain, there is optimism in Jordan following two weeks of strikes against the government, the shelving of an income tax law and financial support from Gulf countries to revive Jordan’s economy.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged a total of $2.5 billion to support Jordan’s economy after King Abdullah II said Omar Razzaz has been selected to form a new government.
Razzaz’s new government, which included 28 ministers — 14 of whom are from the previous government — was sworn in on June 14.
After the meeting of Gulf leaders in Mecca, King Abdullah posted on Twitter: “We highly appreciate the noble gesture of our brothers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, especially the good initiative of my brother King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, towards our country in light of the challenges facing it. The Mecca meeting is a true embodiment of fraternity and solidarity among Arabs. God bless the Arab nation and God bless our beloved Jordan.”
The aid package includes a deposit at the Central Bank of Jordan, guarantees to be presented to the World Bank in favour of Jordan, budget support for five years and efforts to reduce Jordan’s cost of borrowing. Jordan also received approximately $1.16 million to support the kingdom’s development project.
Razzaz, who said the controversial income tax law would be withdrawn, promised to study other imposed measures.
“Who could ask for more for now? Our king stood beside us and the new prime minister, whom we admire through his previous work in the government, is promising a change in the laws and that is why we did stop the strikes that brought the whole Jordanian society together against the unfair treatment by the previous government,” said Mustafa Sha’shaa, 33, an accountant in a private company.
“Now we can really feel the approach of Eid al-Fitr. It just does not get any better,” he added.
Jordanians tried to compensate for the lost days and focused on preparing for the Eid but it will like take time before some businesses rebound.
“People are mainly window shopping as they are still allocating their money to priorities more than buying gold, clothes or toys and this we can understand and we hope things will get better in the coming days,” Ghassan Halteh, owner of a jewellery shop in Amman said.
“We have been feeling the challenges everywhere with people even coming to sell their jewellery, which shows that some people are facing the heat and turn to their life savings for support.”
The Textile and Readymade Clothes Syndicate said there were no sales in the readymade clothing sector in Jordan during the strikes.
“We have not seen one customer entering the shop here. People refrained from buying clothes due to the strikes in the kingdom and this has hurt the sector seriously. After the strikes ended… people are still worried,” said Mohammed Qader, who works at a shop in Amman.
Travel agents said they noted a falling off in reservations during the Eid break.
“There is a sharp drop that reached around 70% in outbound tourism compared to last year. People are staying in more this year and this is due to the economic situation of people,” said Murad Ghsoun, owner of Skygate Travel Agency.
“We depend on the high demand for outbound tourism for the Eid holiday but this year there is a very low demand despite a host of attractive deals to Turkey and Sharm el-Sheikh.”
“It seems Jordanians are heading to Aqaba and the Dead Sea or simply staying home for the Eid break, which is good in a way for tourism but not for us,” he added.
Despite a general feeling of optimism, some Jordanians doubt the new government will be able to convince people who are fed up with the situation.
“The new prime minister does not have a magic wand to turn things upside down as previously we heard so many promises that ended up with misery and more increase in prices but we still need to wait and witness what will happen next but, honestly, I am not that optimistic,” said journalist Ayman Khateeb.
“Certain decisions are considered internal issues of the government, for example lowering the cost by cancelling bodyguard jobs for ministers. The tax has not been deleted yet but stopped and we need to wait and see after the new government is sworn in and many other issues that need to be addressed before we say yes things will become better.”