07:48 GMT +317 October 2018
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    A Jordanian protester holds a picture of Jordanian Prime Ministers Hani al-Mulki and chants slogans during a strike against the new income tax law, in Amman, Jordan May 30, 2018

    Young Professionals in Jordan Spearhead Anti-IMF Austerity Protest

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    Massive protests erupted in the Jordanian capital of Amman since May 30 when the government proposed a set of economic reforms aimed at raising taxes and reducing spending in accordance with requirements stipulated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

    Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning journalist reporting from Jordan, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear that the protests in Jordan have mostly been led by young professionals that make up the country's middle class.

    ​"This income tax affects the middle class and the professional sector rather than the poor, so, the younger people have been the ones exploding in protests around the country," Kuttab told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    "Many of the people protesting are between the ages of 25 and 35. Many of them are educated people. Lots of women are also out demonstrating. Some women are even leading the demonstrations. Because many of the protesters are professionals, you are seeing quite a different level of people demonstrating and protesting than usual," Kuttab noted.

    "They have been very peaceful demonstrations and the police have been very disciplined in dealing with them and that is a good sign," he said.

    Last Wednesday, thousands of young Jordanians took the streets in Amman to protest against government policies, particularly proposed amendments to the income tax law. The demonstration followed trade union calls for a rally in front of the union's building in Amman.

    The new legislation would require every adult to obtain a tax number. Those individuals whose annual incomes are no higher than 8,000 Jordanian dinars (over $11,200), and families having incomes that do not exceed 16,000 dinars ($22,400), would be exempt. The tax rates for other individuals and families would range from 5 to 25 percent, depending on just how much these minimum income thresholds are surpassed. 

    The proposed legislation also imposes different tax rates on companies from different sectors. For example, a 30 percent rate will be levied on mining firms, while a 40 percent rate would be paid by banks.

    "Last Wednesday, [after the government proposed raising taxes] the professionals unions declared a one-day strike. The next day, the government appointed committee which decides on fuel rates decided to raise the price of fuel. These two events happened back-to-back and people exploded in demonstrations across the country. The King [Abdullah II] tried to intervene by attempting to delay the fuel hike, but the Pandora's box had already been opened and people started demonstrating," Kuttab explained.

    "It also helps that it is currently Ramadan and after people break their fast, they normally go out and walk in the streets to enjoy themselves. The protests became a trendy thing to do among young people who have nothing else to do," Kuttab added, referring to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which consists of fasting, introspection and prayers.

    On Monday, Jordanian Prime Minister Hani Fawzi Al-Mulki submitted his resignation. According to Al-Jazeera, the decision was made in order to ease tensions caused by the country's economic policies.

    Following the resignation, King Abdullah asked Omar al-Razzaz, education minister in the outgoing government, to become prime minister and form a new government. 

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