AMMAN — Activists are set to rally in several cities on Friday to protest against government austerity measures they claim are “starving citizens”.
In a rare show of unity, independent and youth activists plan to join forces in a series of coordinated protests across the country over the government’s decision to raise fuel prices for the second time this month.
In a so-called Friday of “bread, freedom and social justice”, grass-roots popular movements plan to march in Karak, Tafileh, Theeban, Irbid, Madaba and the Amman suburb of Sahab under a common banner.
In a statement issued late on Wednesday, the Jordanian Popular Movements Coordination Committee — a coalition of the country’s six largest popular movements — urged citizens to pressure Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh to step down for continuing policies they claim have allowed for rampant corruption at citizens’ expense.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s largest opposition movement, will be absent from Friday’s demonstrations.
The decision to raise the price of 90-octane gasoline from JD0.62 to JD0.70 per litre, issued by the Cabinet at midnight Tuesday, has triggered a wave of protests, starting with a dawn demonstration on Wednesday marking the enforcement of the new rates.
The hike comes as the latest in a series of austerity measures that authorities say are necessary to address a record JD2.9 billion state budget deficit that economists warn is tipping the country towards a “financial crisis”.
Earlier this month, the government introduced new electricity tariffs, raising rates as high as 150 per cent across several sectors, and raised 95-octane fuel prices from JD0.795 to JD1 per litre, with Tarawneh warning of additional “painful” measures to further trim the deficit.
Officials attribute the emerging financial crisis to ongoing cuts in the country’s Egyptian gas supplies, which currently stand at 10 per cent of their 300-million-cubic-foot capacity, costing the Treasury some JD5 million per day.
With last Friday’s demos featuring the lowest turnout in over two months, opposition groups have so far failed to capitalise on public anger over rising prices, which observers call a sign that internal divisions continue to prevent the protest movement from gaining momentum.