tv Inside Story 2018 Ep 154 Al Jazeera June 4, 2018 3:32am-4:01am +03
to resign at a meeting on monday there's been days of protests in the kingdom after the government proposed raising income tax by at least five percent the government is also going into increase corporation tax by as much as forty percent it says the hikes are needed to kickstart the economy. canadian prime minister just introduced has called us tariffs on steel and aluminum imports insulting and unacceptable as the fallout of a donald trump's trade policies continue china's also warning any trade deals with the u.s. will not go ahead if trump's threaten terrify can china has goods is implemented. but those were the headlines the news continues here on al-jazeera after inside story station that's watching.
the biggest anti-government protest in here is tax rises the cost of living in else terry t. measures are still king demands for the prime minister to resign what role are regional powers playing in the crisis this is inside story. on welcome to the program fully back to hundreds of jordanians have spent the past few days voicing their anger at proposed tax increases and what they say is the already intolerable high cost of living they accuse a government of covering up failed economic policies and demand the resignation of prime minister. jordan's economy has struggled in recent years because of the
conflicts in neighboring syria and iraq and a shortfall in foreign aid so can a compromise be reached to avert a full blown crisis or put back question to our guests in just a moment but first how to talk so has our report. they're the largest anti-government rallies in five years in what's regard as one of the most stable middle east countries the protest movement initially started by trade unions has swelled nationwide as jordanians showed their frustration. ostrom up with the how local way the citizens now have no power the searching for the children's daily food women are looking in garbage containers to feed their kids and every day we are surprised by rising prices and you texas the problem is not just with tax law the jordanian citizen right now. his pockets are empty are completely empty. saw the government has to listen. to the sound of the people jordan is one of the most expensive. countries in the region and on the top of the words too with no
resources that's on just for the people of jordan. the increase in sales tax and employees being taxed more has infuriated the protestors and they want the government to resign king abdullah has stood by prime minister hani milky despite calls to fire him the king's been instead calling for talks between m.p.'s and government ministers but moki is under international pressure to reform jordan's economy and cut its thirty seven billion dollars debt that is equivalent to ninety five percent of g.d.p. and then. the international monetary fund approved a seven hundred million line to jordan two years ago to lower public debt and increase growth jordan relies heavily on financial help from the u.s. u.a.e. and until recently saudi arabia which has cut funding king abdullah is a key u.s. ally in the strategically important region which borders syria israel and iraq with
regional time or has worsened the kingdom's money problems and sheltering one point four million syrian refugees that according to the hashemite government and those refugees look no closer to returning home. it's also has a large population of refugees from the war in iraq plus two million palestinian refugees have settled in the kingdom the the king recently reversed plans to raise petrol prices fall in protest and these latest protests against austerity measures are further demands for change. out there. well let's bring in our guest joining us from amman is an dony an independent journalists focusing on middle east and palestinian affairs in beirut we have rami koori senior fellow and professor at the american university of beirut and here in doha ibrahim for a hot associate professor in conflict resolution at the doha institute for graduate
studies thank you all welcome to inside story let me see if i can start with you in amman the protests over austerity measures in jordan have been going on for some time now until now they've been fairly small in scale and hadn't spread so why has the discontent in your opinion finally boiled over. well it's an accumulated feeling of anger and frustration among all stratas of and all classes in jordan that. they can be considerate of governments have been dealing with the jordanian citizens with total disregard no accountability no sense of good governance or no sense of the concept of social justice so the income tax deferred income tax was just a trigger that just brought everything to the surface and united many people including people who are have been staunch loyalists and have been critical of the
opposition in the past they've brought them out on the seas especially among young people every time i go i see new i see i meet new people who've never thought would go on the sheets to them to protest against the jordanian government and they're sending not only the sending the palace a message that enough is enough so what then lam is has been the government's response to the protests and more specifically what has the king's response dollars response been to the discontent is a fully aware of just how angry jordanians are right now. frankly again i don't know and i'm not sure because there are no there's nothing to suggest that he's aware he made a statement during a meeting of the higher council political cancer party policy paralysis council saying that people shouldn't be left alone to gird the responsibility and the burden of the debt and the crisis but in effect all measures including price
hikes. sis taxes horrendous service taxes and the float income tax i have no sense if he has a sense of the depth of the anger because i don't think so because otherwise there would have been a revision announced. that he is ready to revise all policies to assist all policies while the us for the prime minister every time he speaks he provokes more people into joining the protests the king has to understand that unless there is a fundamental revision of the policies they'll be no quite into ok rami khouri in beirut your thoughts what do you see as the root cause of this crisis in jordan and is the conflict in syria only to blame for the economic problems and the situation that jordan has been faced with in recent years. i've lived in jordan for about
thirty years and from the seventy's till the early two thousand and six period several of these waves of demonstrations and i was there just a few days ago for four days and talked to many people in the government and outside the government so my impression is that this is a structural chronic problem in jordan because the the fact is that the central government has been unable to make any tangible lasting progress on the central vulnerability of the country which is a growing population it was two million when i was there in the seventy's it's now about nine million with the refugees massive expansion and population and the government can't possibly keep up either with the economic growth rate to provide jobs or with the expenditures to provide essential services including housing security education etc. so this is a problem the jordan has grappled with unsuccessfully for the boat the last forty years there are political reasons for this there are regional tensions wars all
across the region and shifting global alliances and so it's a combination of all of these things and it happens over and over again and it's probably going to have the same result this time with the king stepping in changing some of the provisions continuing with some of the austerity measures and then we'll do it again in seven years and i would like to talk a bit more about the regional influence and the shifting geopolitics in the region and the impact it has on jordan in just a few minutes but i want to bring in abraham here in doha for a zipper on your thoughts on these protests as we said it's not the first sign that we've seen. demonstrations in jordan do you feel that it's different this time around that it's more serious this time around. well i agree with that i mean it's a structural problem actually a jordanian economy is dependent now there is a jordanian that is about thirty five billion dollars which is about ninety percent
of the g.d.p. ninety percent of the jordanian g.d.p. so it's definitely a structural problem that this did has accumulated all this long without being the government has been able to deliver you know to respond to these challenges in addition it's not only about this but also there is a widespread corruption or at least perceived corruption among the people because most of you look at the slogans there is then this protest most of them talking about corruption as one reason and in addition of course there is the elephant in the room is the political factor which is the regional pressure that this is jordan is receiving from from the region because of its position on jerusalem and many can be of that i think we will discuss it but that's that's definitely in my view this could. this is probably unprecedented in the past six or seven years actually there were a lot of protests in the past during the arab spring but i don't think that we have
seen this level of protest taking players especially in my view of the mean reason actually that this tax increase has hit the middle class in jordan. as a result of that we are seeing people protesting and participating in these protests we're seeing communists islamist bathurst you name it from all types of political affiliations out of joining all these supporters responding to the rejecting the government increase demanding the government to resign let me just talking about this widespread anger as abraham says they're real. is everyone that seems upset over these issues in jordan there's already been a general sales tax hike this year a subsidy on bread has been scrapped there's been an increase in fuel and electricity prices i'm just curious to know how jordanians are getting on
a daily basis and you know what will it take for this to subside what do people want from the government immediately. if the living conditions are deteriorating and the middle class the stone was hit hard but if you go outside the man and in some poverty pockets and how man you'll find that people are really getting the spirit or if visited villages are subcommand of north and south and i was insult oh it's it's a city. near a man that has been witnessing for the last two hundred days. nightly protests every night there's people feel that if things continue like that they will not be able to make things meet and they don't feel that there was a serious effort on the part of the government to find alternative solutions to cover the deficit the easiest solution is to levy taxes and to live in taxes
without at a time when the rising in unemployment and their high prices high prices they think is unlike the other times in this that the other my other friends are talking about it this time around it's not enough to sack the prime minister people are really placing the blame at the door of the palace i've been to the protests and the sentiment is so strong including of people who usually support the state that feeling that it is not that the governments because it is governments are no longer are no more than puppets for the palace so this is why is dangerous they placing the blame at the door of the king that and and that there is also a feeling in jordan yes there are regional pressures but how can the king face the region pressure pressures if you are look if he loses his constituency this is the
main question you don't lose you don't face pressures from america or from other party by. it in it in your feet list. ok let me is let's talk about these regional precious and why what happens in jordan matters is graphical position and regional role have shaped foreign policy and been crucial to internal stability king abdullah's hashemite dynasty is the custodian of sacred sites in jerusalem he's angered the u.s. by criticizing donald trump's decision to recognize use them as israel's capital america spends nearly one point three billion dollars in jordan every yes money sends every year to jordan bases in the kingdom are launching pads for u.s. military operations the jordanian government partially supported the saudi arabia led. by downgrading ties but the jordanian embassy wasn't closed a five year aid package worth around three point six billion dollars from the
states ended eighteen months ago so rami kouri to what extent is what's happening regionally and you know the shifting geopolitics of this region affecting and impacting what we're seeing in jordan right now this current crisis. it's affecting it very much in fact it's one of several new developments that make this set of demonstrations and this wave of popular protest more significant and more dangerous than all the previous ones the first thing is that historically meaning from say the fifty's on whenever you had anger inside jordan economic stress the government the king king hussein in the past and king abdullah more recently always could find some counterbalancing power to come in and give them a couple hundred million dollars five hundred million dollars didn't vestments and patch up the deficit they can't do that anymore because all of the critical
elements around them that supported them the e.u. the americans the saudis the go from the japanese others they've pretty much either maximize what they can give or they've gotten tired or they don't have good relations with jordan as close as as they used to the second thing is the outlet you had for hundreds of thousands of jordanian workers to go work in the gulf and other places to compensate for the lack of jobs at home that doesn't exist anymore and third thing is the political position taken by the saudi intimate out they and other leaders trying to create a new arab leadership that is close to the israelis that close to trump pressuring wanting to remake the arab world in the scimitar the jordanians don't go along with this the government and the people don't particularly want to be part of this new process so there is no mechanism anymore today for jordan to find relief in regional or global partners as it used to in the past and that's why they felt they had no option option other than to go to the i.m.f.
if i can just add to that one other point to which is at the popular level what's happening in jordan i was exactly what happened in the arab uprisings in this psyche of ordinary people i don't mean the results will be the same but people the reason people are so angry is because they perceive now that there is no so. safe savior coming there's no sucker coming there's no relief coming to help them and they a lot of people see themselves in perpetual poverty of vulnerability and marginalization for generations to come that wasn't the case in the past but they're starting to be hundreds of thousands of jordanians who feel this and that's what we are seeing a brain free at your thoughts on these external forces and powers and their role in the current crisis in jordan some analysts have said jordan stands over jerusalem has been a source of tension with saudi arabia which as we have seen recently is increasing be telling washington is there a direct connection to be made between the kingdom stance on jerusalem and its
current economic woes well in last february king abdullah was meeting with students from the university of jordan and he spoke a clearly about this he said that we are under tremendous of pressure economic pressure as a result of our position on jerusalem and he went ahead to say that jerusalem will always be a good line for us so they've in italy jordan has not subscribed to the this forming alliance and in the region on the issue of jerusalem confronting iran and all of that and what's called the ultimate deal the american saudi is via the alliance. king abdullah has refused to be part of this king abdullah was someone to riyadh just before the fall i see. of islamic cooperation summit in istanbul in riyadh was someone that we had on was as not to go to the summit and he went actually from riyadh there to istanbul in an open defiance to the regional
pressure on the issue of jerusalem and he maintained his position that jerusalem we have not compromising on jerusalem we will always meant in our position on that so i think jordan which traditionally by the way was always. of this. alliance the pool with pro america alliance but we started to see these differences appear on the jordan position especially on jerusalem the ultimate deal position we have seen actually the. saudi and the investment in jerusalem. the last three years actually the saudis subsidy of one hundred million one hundred eighty million dollars were not for jordan and there is also what's called the oil a grant from saudi arabia that also jordan used to receive in the past has not been busy you've either saw the jordan not subscribing to this altima deal or
lion story ship the politics of the region and provides in jerusalem has definitely caused jordan you know this issue and that's why i call it the impacts the jordan is a players playing for the moment ok before i bring back lomis into the conversation and ask you about you know how the king should be handling this external pressure and also the internal pressure i want to bring back romney quickly from beirut on and particularly this you know if the various reports ought to be believed it would seem that jordan's role as an interlocutor between you know the gulf states and israel has diminished because some of these gulf states are not directly dealing with these rallies even if it's you know discreetly they are directly dealing with them do you think jordan still has a value then for this weekend for instance jordan's role as a custodian of the holy sites in jerusalem at risk now because of what's happening
in this region. the role of jordan as custodian of the holy sites is important for jordan and for some palestinians and others but it's not a major regional strategic element the people in the gulf and other places don't really focus on that at all historically and when i say historically i don't mean just in the last fifty years i mean since the early bronze age since three thousand b.c. jordan has always survived by finding its place among the big regional powers many of whom are aggressive whether it was babylon and bisan by sente him or and israel today wherever it is they've always been able to find their niche and try to be friends with everybody and be a safe haven and there's a border zone that's important for trade among other things that role is increasingly under jeopardy today because people don't particularly need the buffer
that jordan provides because all of the big countries in the region iran syria turkey israel iraq so to arabia they all feel they can take care of themselves so there is a strategic change happening in jordan's regional role and its ability to to parlay its own structure of strategic geography into political relationships and this is where the king in jordan is really a challenge now to reconsider how best jordan can protect itself and the main answer to that is to have the strategic allegiance of his own people in the support of his own people i think he understands that in his bones his father certainly did but trying to do that while at the same time having enough money to pay or bureaucrats and your soldiers and your school teachers that's the great challenge that abdullah faces in jordan today ok let me give the last word so let me is how does king abdullah deal with this dual challenge the external pressure of regional powers and the internal pressure how does he deal with the costs.
actually yeah first of all people are not totally buying vegies arisen and tax people are aware of the pressure i can't speak on behalf of many but i do go to the protests and are aware of the tremendous pressure on jordan but the crisis has not just started now the economy crisis started in two thousand and eleven and there were many many chances for the government to prove that it is accountable to find alternatives to present to the i.m.f. an alternative plan in order to increase production and productive just. the their revenues and it didn't start with the saudis and and the interest pressure in jordan and people are aware of that and we resent that the third thing is that we all forget that jordan has been accelerating its normalization with israel if you go to the north to the the areas of the villages where there are
conflicts there are forcing people to to saw glahn to the government to sell land to the government to build it can to first and an acceptable oil pipeline between israel and jordan which is really stolen palestinian oil you see the people are broke and the villagers and the farmers are very upset they feel that the government and the palace have failed them so it's not just started no they're they they feel that the readiness to walk to israel to bow to america but not to. listen to the people all of the statements coming from the government should total disregard people are ready to listen if there is suspect but there's no respect at all to people on the streets. ok thank you very much lamis a very interesting discussion with all of you and we'll keep a close eye on the situation in jordan in the coming days here on al-jazeera. brain
free at joining us on inside story today thank you too for watching you can always watch this program again any time by visiting our website at www dot com for further discussion go to our facebook page that's facebook dot com for slash insights or you can of course also join the conversation on twitter a handle is that inside story for me for me back to the whole team thank you for watching i for one week. it would. be with.
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hello i'm down jordan in doha the quick reminder of the top stories here on al-jazeera at least fifty five people including six children have died in two boat tragedies in the mediterranean sea both boats were carrying migrants trying to enter europe illegally a speed boat sank while crossing from turkey to the greek islands and the tunisian coast guard is searching for survivors from a refugee boat so far sixty eight people along with nearly fifty bodies have been brought to the port city of spock's solid bullets reports on the safety of land and back where they began after the nine meter boat sank leaving tennessee at bound for europe she knew a lizard a citizen a boat had a capacity for seventy five to ninety people maximum but we were between one hundred eighty hundred and one.