'There's no going back': Jordanians vow to continue protests

Jordanian protesters shout slogans and raise a national flag during a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office in the capital Amman early Monday

Jordanian protesters shout slogans and raise a national flag during a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office in the capital Amman early Monday

In the march, which started late Monday, some of the protesters chanted, "No to Mulki, No to Razzaz".

Jordanians have taken to the streets of the country's capital an several other cities to protest an IMF-backed draft income tax law and price hikes.

It is a sight rarely seen in Jordan - thousands on the streets, for almost a week now, the largest protests the kingdom state has experienced in years.

So far, Jordanian authorities have arrested 60 protesters for "breaking the law", Reuters reports, adding that the demonstrations have also injured 42 security force officers.

Jordan, a key United States ally, has largely avoided the unrest witnessed by other countries in the region since the Arab Spring revolts broke out in 2011, although protests did flare late that year after the government cut fuel subsidies. He said price rises had placed a burden on Jordanians and called for improving services, blaming regional instability for hampering the sluggish economy.

Since January, resource-poor Jordan, which suffers from high unemployment and poverty, has seen repeated price rises including for staples such as bread, as well as extra taxes on basic goods.

In a sign the tax hikes could be shelved, the official Petra news agency, citing the speaker of parliament, said MPs were on course to ask the king's permission to hold an exceptional session, with a majority demanding the changes be withdrawn.

Protest organizers have said they seek real change, including a rescinding of the tax bill, and that personnel changes at the top are irrelevant without fundamental reforms.

The IMF approved a three-year extended arrangement with Jordan in 2016 to support economic and financial reform to lower public debt and encourage structural reforms. Jordan was rocked by unrest in 2012 when the International Monetary Fund told the government to lift gasoline prices. The demonstrators say Mulki's resignation has not brought about any changes and that the government must scrap the I-M-F-backed tax bill. Critics say the current tax proposal unfairly targets the poor and the middle class.

While Jordan has remained relatively stable during recent periods of turmoil in the Middle East, the country's debt has reached $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of the country's GDP, and the country relies heavily on worldwide aid.

Cabinet member Omar Razzaz, a Harvard-educated former senior World Bank official, replaced Hani Mulki, who quit Monday amid widening protests against his government's austerity program, including a planned tax increase.

The country has largely avoided the unrest witnessed by other countries in the region since the Arab Spring revolts broke out in 2011, although protests did flare late that year after the government cut fuel subsidies.

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