• General strike disrupts cargo movements across Jordan

    07 June 2018

    A general strike and mass protests against higher living costs and a new income tax law have been taking place across Jordan since May 30, severely disrupting the transport of goods and leading to the eventual resignation of Prime Minster Hani al-Mulki on June 4. At its peak, the protests attracted approximately 200,000 people across Amman and were reportedly the largest protests against government policies since 2012.

    Accounts of road blockades and burning tires on key access roads in Amman such as the Airport Road, the Desert Highway and the Amman-Jerash Road have been reported, which have disrupted cargo transportation to and from Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, the country’s main airport. Disruptions to container flows in the Port of Aqaba, the only port in Jordan, have also been reported. Operated by Maersk’s port company APM Terminals, the port is the second busiest container port in the Red Sea and the main gateway for cargo to Jordan. In addition, fuel and food shortages have been reported across Amman and other cities, including Zarqa, Irbid and Ma’an, with fuel tankers and food transporters not able to serve gas stations and supermarkets due to road blockages and demonstrations.

    Outlook

    Since the resignation of the prime minster, King Abdullah reportedly asked Minister of Education Omar al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, to form a new government. Its main task will be to push forward an economic reform program aimed at reducing public spending of the highly-indebted country. A potential cancellation of the new income tax law seems economically unfeasible but politically urgent to subdue the anti-government protests. However, an early sign for this was an announcement by King Abdullah in a letter on June 5 stating that the prime minister must carry out a comprehensive review of the tax system.

    Cargo disruptions and shortages in fuel and food across the country could worsen as a result of a new general strike called for June 6, as well as the announcement of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU) to stage mass demonstrations across the country at 13:00 local time on June 6. Most potentially affected areas include Amman and the provinces of Zarqa, Irbid, and Ma’an. The new one-day general strike is an indicator that unions and professional organizations are unlikely to back down from the protests unless the government demonstrates concrete actions to suspend or review the new income tax law.

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