Jordan May Face Protests If Food and Fuel Prices Rise

Article Summary
Canceling Jordan's fuel and food subsidies could lead to mass demonstrations, Tamer al-Samadi reports, citing secret briefings to senior members of the  government. 

Al-Hayat has learned that new undeclared security recommendations were recently given to senior authorities in the Jordanian government, warning against the forthcoming implementation of a decision to raise the prices of basic subsidized commodities, including fuel and bread.

Official sources told Al-Hayat that “these recommendations call for postponing [the implementation of] the prospective decision under the term of the new government,” warning of growing public anger, especially in provinces “with a tribal structure,” which suffer from critical economic conditions.

The sources said that the cancellation of subsidies “could lead to a broad wave of protests and demonstrations.”

However, the sources confirmed that Prime Minster Abdullah Ensour’s government might be “forced” to cancel the subsidies very soon in accordance with a prior agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to the agreement, Jordan is required to cancel subsidies on fuel and basic commodities in exchange for supporting the general budget, which operates with a financial deficit estimated at $21 billion.

Jordanian Minister of Industry and Trade Hatem al-Halawani said in a statement that “the government is studying the subsidization mechanism for a range of basic commodities with great care and concern.” He noted that “the difficult economic situation in the kingdom requires those who are able to help bear part of the real costs.”

Mohammad Abu Rumman, a political researcher and analyst who is close to decision-making circles in Jordan, warned against the implementation of the aforementioned decision at such a “critical” stage of the country's history.

He told Al-Hayat that “this step may intensify the state of anger and resentment among the Jordanian public, especially since political and security recommendations in this regard have been given to the decision-making kitchen.”

Also, with regard to the economic and political situation, Prime Minister Ensour is trying to reach swift and decisive understandings with the Muslim Brotherhood, the main political component in the country. He is seeking to ease the congested atmosphere in Amman even if the Brotherhood upholds its decision to boycott the elections.

Prominent Brotherhood leaders told Al-Hayat of a notable statement made by Ensour during a meeting with them in the senate headquarters two days ago [Oct. 13], which — according to Jordanian politicians — showed the prime minister’s keenness to contain the anger of the group and active Jordanian forces.

He said: “I will consider myself to be a failure if I do not succeed in bringing you closer to the regime.” He added, “I hope you will join me to form a government whose main task is to hold early elections.”

In the same context, an official in the Independent Electoral Commission announced that registration for potential voters would be closed by the end of today [Oct. 15].

Hussein Bani Hani, a spokesman for the commission, told Al-Hayat that “the registration period will not be extended again.” He explained that the total number of registered voters is close to 2,192,000 across the country.

Three detained youth activists began an open hunger strike yesterday, demanding the release of all detainees of youth movements, who total about 20.

Amnesty International asked Jordan to release the youth activists on Friday [Oct. 12], saying that the Jordanian king’s directives to the new prime minster to respect freedom of expression “contradict the punitive measures taken against peaceful demonstrators.”

Found in: protests, food subsidies, food

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