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Protests against IMF-backed tax reform bill continue in Jordan

Demonstrators gather near the office of prime minister in Amman to protest against price hikes and tax increases.

people in Jordan's capital have protested

Hundreds of people in Jordan's capital have protested for the third consecutive day against the increase of living costs and a new income tax draft law.

Rallied kicked off after more than 33 unions participated in a general strike on Wednesday, accusing the government of covering up failed economic policies.

On Saturday, crowds of people made their way to Amman's Fourth Roundabout, where the office of the prime minister is located.

There, they chanted anti-government slogans and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Mulki.

Hundreds of Jordanians also protested in other parts of the country, including the provinces of Zarqa, Irbid, and Ma'an.

In the governorate of al-Tafilah, protesters chanted, "We will not be ruled by the World Bank".

Unions say the tax bill, driven by International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations, will exacerbate a decline in living standards.

Yet Mulki has so far refused to scrap the IMF-backed bill, saying parliament had the final decision.

"Sending the draft law does not mean parliament will agree to it or even agree on its articles," Mulki told reporters on Saturday after meeting with trade union leaders. "Parliament is its own master."

The prime minister said that more meetings would follow, but the head of Jordan's main union Ali Obus demanded for the state to "maintain its own independence and not bow to IMF demands".

The bill proposes that anyone with an annual income of 8,000 dinars ($11,000) or more would have to pay a five percent increase of income tax, while businesses would face steep tax increases between 20 and 40 percent. Evaders would be heavily fined.

The proposed law is the latest in a series of economic reforms since Amman secured a $723m, three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

The bill aims to reduce Jordan's public debt from 94 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to 77 percent by 2021.

Yet 78 out of 130 MPs issued a statement on Friday saying they would vote against the draft legislation.

They said the income tax draft law does not serve the economic and social interests of the people.

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