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Jordan’s King Abdullah II freezes price hikes in wake of protests

People chant slogans during a protest against the new income tax law and high fuel prices in Amman, , June 1, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II has ordered the government to suspend an increase in fuel and electricity prices in the wake of angry protests.
The official Petra agency reported that the king on Friday ordered the government of Hani Mulki to freeze price hikes set to come into effect that day as the Muslim majority country observes the holy month of Ramadan.
The decree comes after hundreds of Jordanians staged protests in the capital Amman and other cities late Thursday and early Friday, demanding the “fall of the government” as they blocked roads with cars and burning tires.
The government had decreed hikes of up to 5.5 percent on fuels and a 19-percent hike in electricity prices.
Thousands of Jordanians also staged a strike on Wednesday against an income tax bill that they say will worsen an erosion in living standards.
The country has a public debt of some $35 billion, equivalent to around 90 percent of its gross domestic product.
The price hike and steep tax increases, which the government of Mulki introduced earlier in the year as mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are meant to cut into the debt.
According to official estimates, 18.5 percent of Jordan’s population of 9.5 million is unemployed, while 20 percent are on the brink of poverty.