Amman's answer to Bouazizi
The self-immolation of a Jordanian man in protest against plummeting living standards is another strike against mounting austerity measures coming out of Amman, writes Khetam Malkawi
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Jordan's Prince Faisal sits among other officers as they watch the Jordanian and US special forces train at the King Abdullah Special Operations during their "Eager Lion" military exercise in Amman, Sunday
The Jordanian people are still reeling after news last week of a Jordanian man who died after setting himself ablaze.
Thirty-one-year-old Musaab Khalifeh, an employee at the Jordanian Central Electricity Generating Co, set himself alight after being dismissed from his job. He was married with a young daughter, and was the sole provider for his family of eight, including his two ailing parents.
His family has claimed that he decided to end his own life in protest against the "unbearable poverty" they experienced. His father explained that survival was a constant struggle on the JD400 per month Musaab earnt.
Musaab's situation deteriorated further, however, when he was fired by his boss following an argument. Musaab's repeated attempts to convince his manager to let him return to work came to nothing and finally he chose to take his own life.
He burnt himself only two days before the Jordanian government's decision to raise fuel and electricity prices.
While the event has been described by some columnists and analysts as a wake- up call for the government to reconsider its decision, the government can be seen to have had its hands tied in this respect, with Musaab's life another cost for the failure of the successive governments to deal with to the deep-rooted unemployment and poverty problems in Jordan.
Al-Ghad daily columnist, Mohamed Sweidan, is one such commentator arguing that the government should revisit its decision. He has asserted that while the story of Musaab might be an "individual" incident, it is a warning for the government to recognise the human cost of their reforms.
The whole furore erupted last week, just before the Jordanian government raised the price of gasoline and electricity for major mining firms, hotels and banks, to reduce budget deficit that might reach $2.9 billion this year.
The move, announced last Saturday, was the first rise in retail gasoline prices since protests started in the Kingdom's streets last. The protests forced the three previous successive governments to freeze fuel price hikes. Despite this under Fayez Tarawneh's regime, the Jordanian government has increased the price of petrol to JD1 from JD0.795 per litre and enforced an increase of electricity tariffs after no more than one month in office. Under the new rates, the banking sector, hotel, telecommunications, water and large industrial sectors have seen increases that range from 22 to 150 per cent.
Hotel owners have threatened that they might dismiss employees to offset the increase in the cost of electricity but the government maintains that the changes will have little effect on the lives of ordinary citizens.
The decision has also prompted Jordanians to go to the streets, protesting against inflation and a rising level of unemployment which stood at 13.1 per in 2011, according to the Jordanian Department of Statistics.
These demonstrations, however, have had no perceivable impact on the government which is also expected to announce further price increases. Instead, officials say the hike in prices have been necessary to show the Kingdom's commitment to fiscal consolidation and win the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) continued support and aid.
These increases in fuel and electricity prices are just the latest a slew of austerity measures announced to address Jordan's budget deficit. A 15 per cent deduction was also imposed on some government employees under measures already in place.
High ranking Jordanian military officials, along with Jordanian members of parliament have agreed to take a similar pay decrease, but Ahmed Hassan Zuabi, a satiric columnist with Al-Rai, has denounced the move as "showoff", saying that those officials might get back the deducted amounts of their salary, but they announced this move to "Ta7'jeel" the citizens to follow their steps.