Jordan's new gov't faces reform plans deadline

15:27, December 15, 2009      

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by Mohammad Ghazal

Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday swore in a 29-member cabinet headed by former palace minister Samir Rifai, which is urged to press ahead with reforms to improve living conditions.

The new Jordanian government has 40 days to come up with detailed strategies for reforms in all sectors, according to directives set on Monday by the new prime minister.

In a letter addressed to King Abdullah II after the new cabinet was sworn in, Rifai pledged to embark on economic and political reforms and face challenges at hand in line with a "clear and specific timeframe with no delay or slow pace of implementation."

Rifai, a 43-year-old former Royal Court minister who hails from a long line of family of statesmen, said his government, with two women in the team, will come up with action plans for each ministry to implement the king's directives in the letter of appointment.

Rifai was named the prime minister-designate a few hours after the resignation of former Prime Minister Nader Daabi on Wednesday.

Rifai was urged to reform the electoral process, amend the controversial election law, ensure wider participation of the public in the decision-making, and speed up economic reform in light of current economic conditions marked by surge in budget deficit and drop in foreign aid.

In the letter which was carried by the state-run Petra news agency, the prime minister said the government will take all necessary measures to ensure that the parliamentary elections, to be held before the end of 2010, become a "model in transparency, impartiality and neutrality."

The opposition repeatedly claimed that the 2007 parliamentary elections were marked by allegations of vote rigging and government's interference by supporting some candidates.

Rifai said the new government will exert its "utmost efforts" to deal with the consequences of the global economic crisis and will work on enhancing investment climate in Jordan and make it more attractive for foreign investments.

According to latest official figures, Jordan's budget deficit reached about 980 million Jordanian dinars (about 1.384 billion U.S. dollars) in the first 11 months of 2009.

Experts said the budget deficit is a major obstacle and will "make it more difficult" for the government to deal with the consequences of the global economic downturn.

Source: Xinhua
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