This week protests in Jordan
turned violent, killing one person and injuring 75, including over 50 police.The prime minister Abdullah Ensour claimed
that the fragile state of government finances forced him to raise prices for heating and cooking gas by over 50% and also some oil derivatives by up to 28%. Ensour noted that on taking office last month, he discovered foreign currnecy reserves had shrunk by half to $10 billion. Poverty and unemployment were at alarming rates:
"Economic indicators were alarming, the situation was dangerous and there were projections that it would impossible to navigate the ship in safe waters."
The Jordanian deficit had reached a record high of $3 billion as debts grew by 20% during 2012. Ensour claimed that the removal of most state subsidies on fuel and gas products would prevent the government from going further in debt and generate revenue that could be used in other sectors. Ensour said that Jordanians with low incomes would receive $600 compensation per year for a household of six. He called the price hike irreversible.
The price hikes were applauded by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in a telephone call to King Abdullah II. She praised the king's commitment to economic and political reform. Some of the protesters were less charitable and called on the king to step down. The recent protests have been the largest since the Arab Spring uprisings began.
The police complain that outlaws and gangsters take advantage of the protests to attack police stations and courts, rob banks, and carry out carjackings. Over 150 people have been arrested since Tuesday. Abdullah has relinquished some of his powers to parliament and passed some laws guaranteeing more public freedoms but it may not be enough to stem rising protests.
The country's police chief warned that police will strike back against any who incite violence with an "iron fist". The Islamist-led opposition has vowed to continue strikes and unions say they may hold a strike on Sunday.