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Jordan raises fuel prices despite opposition

By Agencies



Jordan on Friday raised prices of oil derivatives between 3 per cent and 111 per cent, despite calls from opposition groups, mainly the Islamists, against such a move.

It was the fifth fuel price hike in two years in the cash-strapped kingdom.

The hikes are part of a state plan to gradually remove fuel subsidies in the new $7.3 billion budget, because of rising oil prices that made the country’s energy bill prohibitively expensive.

Jordan is heavily in debt and lacks the oil wealth of its Gulf neighbors. The country received all its oil at preferential prices when Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq but has had to pay higher rates since the regime change in Baghdad.

The Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood Movement, and Jordan’s largest opposition group, has said the hikes would further burden Jordanians, especially the poor.

With Friday’s announcement, a litre of unleaded gasoline went up from Jordanian dinar 85 US cents; to 92 US cents, while a litre of diesel which mid-class Jordanians use for heating increased from 41 US cents to 78 US cents.

The government also said that as of April, domestic fuel prices will be governed by international prices.

Earlier this week, economic analyst Khaled Zubeidi urged the government to refrain from the move and instead look for alternative oil resources, such as oil shale which the kingdom has plenty of.

A new increase would be “unjustified,” he was quoted as saying by the Al Madina weekly, as fuel prices were already inflated and almost 80 per cent higher than those in non-oil producing Turkey’s and about 400 per cent more than those of other neighbors, such as Syria and Egypt, who produce barely enough oil for local consumption.

The Cabinet also said it increased paychecks for civil servants from January, to ease the impact of liberalizing fuel prices. It did not provide any details on how much the government was expected to save from lifting fuel subsidies.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of transportation announced it has increased public transportation tariffs by an average of 23 per cent, according to the official Petra news agency. (AP)