Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait offer $2.5 bn in aid to crisis-hit Jordan

Mass protests against price rises and a proposed tax hike have rocked Jordan in recent days as the government pushes austerity measures to slash the country's debt in the face of an economic crisis
AFP

Riyadh (AFP) – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have offered $2.5 billion in aid for Jordan to ease its economic crisis following a wave of anti-austerity protests, the Saudi state media announced early Monday.

“In light of the close brotherly ties… it was agreed that the three countries would provide an economic aid package to Jordan totalling $2.5 billion,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The package, announced at a summit of the four nations in the holy city of Mecca, will include a deposit in the Jordanian central bank, World Bank guarantees,  budgetary support over five years and financing for development projects, SPA said.

The summit, called by Saudi King Salman, was attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah II along with leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Mass protests against price rises and a proposed tax hike have rocked Jordan in recent days as the government pushes austerity measures to slash the country’s debt in the face of an economic crisis.  

Earlier on Sunday, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced Sunday 20 million euros ($23.5 million) in aid for Jordan.

Cash-strapped Jordan, a close US ally that relies heavily on donors, is struggling to curb its debt after securing a $723-million loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

Austerity measures tied to the loan have seen prices of basic necessities rise across the kingdom — culminating in a week of angry protests over tax proposals that forced prime minister Hani Mulki to resign.

The authorities on Thursday announced they were withdrawing the unpopular legislation, but still face a mammoth task to balance popular demands with the need to reduce the public debt burden. 

Jordan blames its economic woes on instability rocking the region and the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria, complaining it has not received enough international support. 

The World Bank says Jordan has “weak growth prospects” this year, while 18.5 percent of the working age population is unemployed.

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