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Unionists pressured by crowd to resume protests

Youth protests continue for seventh day in a row

By Mohammad Ghazal - Jun 07,2018 - Last updated at Jun 07,2018

Activists rally near the professional associations’ offices on Wednesday in continuation of protests against the income tax draft bill (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — Less than one hour after taking a decision to suspend all protests against the income tax draft law, the Professional Associations Council went back on its decision and said it was going ahead with protests until the bill is withdrawn.

The council held a meeting on Wednesday as thousands of Jordanians gathered at the associations' headquarters in protest of the controversial piece of legislation. 

After the meeting, representatives from the council told the protestors that the associations decided to suspend all protests and strikes to give the yet-to-be formed government the opportunity to withdraw the bill.

However, the announcement was received with anger by the protestors who said they wanted to go ahead with the protests, a reaction that prompted Ali Obous, head of the council, to announce that escalatory measures and lobbying against the bill would continue.

Obous said the council’s initial decision to suspend protests was meant to provide an opportunity to the upcoming government to respond to the demands of the thousands of Jordanians who have been demonstrating over the past week.

On Wednesday, workers in some sectors held a partial strike in protest of the bill across the country.

Mohammad Saleem, a doctor at a public hospital in Amman, said: “We are striking today as we reject the bill and reject all the government’s economic policies.”

“Today, we will only treat emergency cases coming to the hospital. The strike will not affect anyone’s life but we want to send a message that we do not want the bill,” he told The Jordan Times.

Hamed Al Mahasneh, a civil engineer, who took part in the sit-in at the association’s headquarters, echoed similar remarks.

“Our protests should continue because we are not against certain individuals in the government, but we are against the government’s approach and apathy to our demands,” Mahasneh told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

“The government should be serious about fighting corruption and before asking people to pay taxes, public spending should be trimmed…. We hope the new government will be different,” he added.

Last week, the associations held a strike in protest of the law that received significant support from the associations’ members and the general public, but not all partners took part in this week’s as some said the new government deserves a chance.

Meanwhile, youth protests continued in Amman and other areas for the seventh day in a row, demanding change to economic policies and cancelling amendments to the Income Tax Law. 

It was reported that a gendarmerie officer was stabbed at the Fourth Circle and the suspect was arrested.

On Tuesday, His Majesty King Abdullah tasked Omar Razzaz, former education minister, with forming a new government.

King Abdullah instructed Razzaz and his in-the-making team to start a national dialogue about the Income Tax Law.

The bill mainly focuses on three aspects: improving tax collection, curbing tax evasion and boosting tax revenues, which are expected to increase by JD300 million annually.

The proposed law seeks to increase the number of income tax payers from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

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