Hundreds of Jordanians protested on Friday in central Amman in the first demonstration against a new tax bill, backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that was passed last month. Image Credit: AFP

Amman: Hundreds of Jordanians protested on Friday in central Amman in the first demonstration against a new tax bill, backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that was passed this month.

Around 300 people chanting anti-government slogans gathered near a parking lot where police had imposed a cordon to prevent them from marching to the office of Prime Minister Omar Razzaz.

Scores chanted “Go away Razzaz!”, “Government of robbers!”, accusing the government of failing to tackle high-level corruption and ending the reckless spending of public funds.

Jordan’s mainly pro-government parliament approved the IMF-backed tax law nearly two weeks ago. The law imposes steep tax hikes to narrow the record public debt and help get the economy, weighed down by conflict in the region, back on track.

King Abdullah replaced the government in June after its push to impose an earlier tax bill led to a rare wave of protests, only a few months after hefty tax hikes were imposed on basic commodities. That tax bill was reworked into the new bill that parliament has now approved.

Discontent with the Razzaz government has grown in recent weeks. Many say that it has introduced only cosmetic changes to the earlier tax law, failing to deliver on pledges of cutting waste and curbing corruption.

Many politicians and economists say the IMF-inspired austerity plan has worsened the plight of the poor, squeezed the middle class and widened disparities between the rich and poor.