AMMAN (Reuters) – Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh reshuffled his cabinet on Sunday in a bid to accelerate IMF-led reforms, seen as crucial to Jordan’s economic recovery from the blow of the coronavirus pandemic, have officials said.
Six new ministers have been appointed, including Home Affairs and Justice, after Khasawneh sacked the two incumbents last week for attending a restaurant dinner that violated the coronavirus restrictions they were supposed to apply.
In the new 28-member cabinet, Brigadier General Mazen Araya, who ran the COVID-19 crisis center, has been appointed interior minister in a reshuffle seen as giving Khasawneh more leeway to tackle issues social and economic, government officials said.
Britain-trained former diplomat and palace aide Khasawneh was appointed last October by King Abdullah to restore public confidence in handling the coronavirus health crisis and defuse anger over failure successive governments to keep their promises of prosperity and the fight against corruption. .
Jordan has witnessed a wave of infections for nearly two months due to a more contagious variant of the virus amid growing discontent over deteriorating economic conditions and restrictions on civil liberties under emergency laws.
According to Aides, Khasawneh was to keep Mohammad Al Ississ, a Harvard graduate, as finance minister. He won praise from the International Monetary Fund for managing the economy during the pandemic and negotiated a four-year IMF program worth $ 1.3 billion, showing confidence in the reform agenda. from Jordan.
The expected reshuffle comes after parliament last week passed a 9.9 billion dinar ($ 14 billion) budget that Al Ississ said was aimed at maintaining fiscal prudence to help ensure financial stability and keep it under control. a record public debt of $ 45 billion.
The economy has seen its worst contraction – 3% – in decades last year, hit by lockdowns, border closures and a sharp drop in tourism during the pandemic, but the government and the IMF both predict a rebound of a similar magnitude this year.
Officials say Jordan’s commitment to IMF reforms and investor confidence in the improved outlook helped the country maintain stable sovereign ratings at a time when other emerging markets were downgraded.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich