By Mahmoud Al Abed
English News Editor
Albawba.com - Amman
The Jordanian government has always been faced with storms of protest when it came to hiking fuel prices. On one occasion the protests were even coupled with violence.
On Sunday, the government froze plans to raise fuel prices under pressure from the Lower House, opposition parties and the public in general. The plan was meant to earn JD100m (about $140m) to make up for part of the deficit in the 2001 budget.
Despite claims by the government on each such occasion that the livelihood of the less privileged citizens was taken into consideration, the public anxiety was inevitable because it is only commonsense that increases in fuel costs affect all aspects of life. This time, the government did not get away with it, and even dismissed press reports of the hike as rumors.
There have also been rumors that Iraq has interfered and told the Jordan to freeze the plan, but an official denied that, according to the Jordan Times.
The hullabaloo surpassed mere rumors to practices on the ground that led to more chaos that could have been dangerous, especially when the opposition took the opportunity to assail the government.
Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb told the parliament that some gas stations halted sales and gas cylinder agents raised the prices on their own.
Abu Ragheb launched a counterattack on both the greedy businessmen and the opportunist opposition, which has lately rained the street with heated statements.
Apparently, the test balloons the government have floated since the finance minister talked last year about the need to make up for the deficit by lifting fuel prices have given alarming signals.
The controversy is a flash back to April 1989, when the government of Zeid Rifai’ imposed a rise in oil products that sparked a popular uprising in the southern city of Maan which quickly spread to many other cities including the capital, Amman.
The uprising is believed to have been the direct cause of the government's downfall and the return of democracy in Jordan that year.
In a related milestone of Jordan’s history, a similar uprising erupted after the government raised the price of bread in 1996, in what was dubbed as “the revolution of the hungry.”
Observers say that the government did intend to raise the fuel prices, but it has apparently learned its history lesson.
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