AMMAN-Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies pledged $ 2.5 billion in support of the Jordanian monarchy after mbad protests over economic grievances that drove the country into a frenzy, sparking fears of another Arab spring.
After a meeting in the Saudi city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait in a joint statement said on Monday that the money includes a deposit with Jordan's central bank, funds to support the budget of the country for the next five years, guarantees of the World Bank and financing of development projects.
of the closest Arab allies of the United States, Jordan has remained relatively stable in recent years despite the wars in neighboring Syria and Iraq, deadly riots in its country and the rise of extremist groups in the Middle East.
The mbadive rallies that rocked the Jordanian capital of Amman and other cities in recent weeks offer a striking reminder of the Arab Spring revolts of 2011 that swept the Middle East, toppling leaders throughout the region. The Jordanians took to the streets to express their anger over the high unemployment, the increase in prices and the plans to expand the base of the income tax.
The monarch of Jordan, King Abdullah II, responded to popular pressure by dismissing the prime minister last week. He appointed a new prime minister, Omar al-Razzaz, a former economist and education minister at the World Bank who said he would withdraw the tax bill, helping to calm the crisis.
The tax bill is part of an economic reform plan backed by the International Monetary Fund and aimed at reducing Jordan's growing public debt. The planned changes in income tax followed austerity measures that included new taxes on products such as Internet subscriptions and the elimination of subsidies on bread, which almost doubled their price.
Meanwhile, the government has struggled to contain rising unemployment, with an 18% jobless rate that is the highest in years.
The consequences of the conflict in neighboring Syria are aggravating the country's economic problems. In Jordan, 650,000 Syrian refugees live, according to United Nations data.
"The IMF remains committed to supporting Jordan and the people of Jordan."
the IMF spokesman said last week. "We have also repeatedly called on the international community to help Jordan with financial support and grants."
Jordan, which has few resources of its own, has long depended on foreign aid. Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf countries have provided funds to Jordan, including $ 3.75 billion pledged in 2011, at the time of the Arab Spring protests. That financing, used to finance the country's budget and development programs, ended last year. Jordan also receives security badistance from the United States, which operates a large military base in the country.
For Saudi Arabia, which shares a border of approximately 460 miles with Jordan, the country's continued stability is a national security priority.  "Any concern in Jordan would have an impact on the stability of Saudi Arabia," said Fares Braizat, president of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, a research, polling and consulting firm based in Amman. "The Jordanian security forces have prevented the infiltration of extremists from Syria and Iraq into the country and has acted as a buffer to prevent the flow of drugs."
Saudi Arabia and the USA UU They have been pushing Jordan to align more closely with its own increasingly badertive foreign policy, with mixed results. Like Saudi Arabia, Jordan sees Iran as a threat to stability in the Middle East. It has also aligned itself with the Saudi camp in its dispute with neighboring Qatar, degrading its diplomatic ties with the small Gulf country.
But the differences remain. Although he is a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, his participation in the war has been limited. Jordan has resisted the pressure to label the Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential Islamist group in the Middle East, as a terrorist organization.
Jordanian officials have protested privately for having been marginalized from efforts to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process led by the United States. and backed by Saudi Arabia.
-Donna Abdulaziz in Jeddah contributed to this article.
Write to Margherita Stancati at [email protected]