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Government critics agree to continue dialogue over income tax bill

Panel set up to settle dispute over Civil Service By-law

By JT - Jun 03,2018 - Last updated at Jun 03,2018

House Speaker Atef Tarawneh speaks to the press following a meeting between Prime Minister Hani Mulki (left) and President of the Professional Association Council Ali Obous (right) at the Parliament on Saturday (Photo by Hassan Tamimi)

AMMAN — Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh announced on Saturday that the government and the Professional Associations Council agreed to continue dialogue on the amended income tax draft law, and to form a joint committee to look into amendments to the Civil Service Bylaw before the upcoming Eid Al Fitr.

The deal was reached at the end of a meeting between Prime Minister Hani Mulki and the Professional Associations Council at the Lower House, which was called for by Tarawneh to discuss the amended income tax draft law, which was recently referred to the legislature, triggering widespread protests and a strike.

Youth gathered for the third consecutive day at different locations of the Kingdom to protest the economic measures, with some demanding the government to step down.

Meanwhile, the Senate will meet Sunday “for consultations,” its President Faisal Fayez announced yesterday.

In remarks to the press broadcast live online, Mulki said that the government is keen to maintain dialogue to reach an understanding on the amended income tax draft law to protect the poor and middle class, and achieve the consensus of all parties.

Mulki added that 70 per cent of the reform programme has been completed, and “if the amended income tax law was passed, we would have completed the programme to cross to safety in mid-2019”.

The premier referred to the constitutional procedures with regard to legislation, explaining that sending the income tax draft law to the Lower House does not mean the legislature’s guaranteed approval of the bill, part of it or any article in it, adding that “the House is master of itself”. 

The House Speaker pointed out that Jordan is “greater” than the government and tax law, and that “we will not cave in to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the government cannot take us for granted”, stressing also the importance of revisiting the amendments to the civil service system, since the complainants represent a large segment of public sector employees.

For his part, head of the Professional Associations Council Ali Obous said that they heard talks about the “income tax” that needs more time for dialogue and they will be meeting soon.

“We came with a demand for the government to withdraw the income tax bill, but we have heard good things that call for further discussions and more meetings to be able to serve the interests of all.”

The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Prime Ministry Affairs Jamal Sarayreh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Jafar Hassan, Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani, Finance Minister Omar Malhas, Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs and Minister of State Musa Maaytah, Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Yarub Qudah, and members of the Professional Associations Council and the Lower House.

Earlier in the day, Speaker Atef Tarawneh had said the discussions over the income tax draft law would be postponed following the memorandum signed by a majority of MPs rejecting the new controversial amendments before the plan was revived to bring the government and its critics to the negotiating table.  

A group of 78 lawmakers signed a memorandum late Friday night carrying their “complete rejection” of the bill.

In their memo, a copy of which was sent to The Jordan Times, signatories cited keenness on the country’s social and economic security as the main reason behind their rejection of the new law.

They also said the “government’s intransigence and the centralism in decision-making” have created a negative and nervous atmosphere in the whole country, in addition to infuriating the public. “This all has had its impact on the prospects of any dialogue.”

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