In an address to parliament on Jan. 20, Rifai sought to assuage rising
anger among Jordanians amid deteriorating economic conditions, Middle East Newsline reported. Violent
protests have taken place in several parts of the Hashemite kingdom in early 2011,
sparked by calls for employment and a decrease in the price of food staples
"The problem we face is cumulative and caused by an unprecedented
deficit," Rifai said.
Jordan has been struggling with a record budget deficit of $2.1 billion.
The government, under pressure from the World Bank, had intended to reduce
the deficit by 30 percent this year.
Instead, the government has assured Jordanians that it would
increase subsidies under a $425 million program. Officials said the
subsidies would maintain the price of animal feed, rice, sugar, cooking gas and
But the renewed subsidies have not quelled rising protests in the Arab
kingdom. The Islamic opposition has rejected the measures and on Jan. 21
held a so-called "Day of Rage" in Amman and Irbid.
Many of the 5,000 protesters called for the resignation of Rifai and the
election of the next prime minister. Others accused the Rifai government of
"We call for early elections under a new and democratic elections law
that secure fair representation of all citizens," Hamza Mansour,
secretary-general of the opposition Islamic Action Front, said.