Jordan bread prices rise as government seeks more dough

Cash-strapped kingdom removes subsidies, doubling price of some flatbreads, with move expected to hit low-income Jordanians hardest

A Jordanian worker packages bread at a bakery in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 27, 2018. (AFP / Khalil MAZRAAWI)
A Jordanian worker packages bread at a bakery in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 27, 2018. (AFP / Khalil MAZRAAWI)

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan on Saturday increased the price of bread by up to 100 percent after lifting subsidies on the staple in a bid to redress its debt-riddled economy.

The move is expected to affect low income Jordanians, for whom flat pita-like bread is an essential part of meals.

Past price hikes have sparked riots in the cash-strapped country which has few natural resources.

The price of a kilo of white bread was raised by 100 percent from 16 piasters to 32 piasters ($0.45), while the price of smaller flat bread rose by more than 67 percent.

Flat bread known as “taboon,” a staple on the dinner tables of low-income Jordanians, rose 90 percent.

The price of other breads remained unchanged.

The official Petra news agency, quoting the trade and industry ministry, said the new prices will remain in effect until December 31.

“This decision will undoubtedly affect Jordanians,” said shopper Ahmad Ramadan as he lined up at an Amman bakery.

“Someone paid 300 dinars ($423) a month who spends a dinar a day on bread will end up having to allocate 30 dinars a month for bread alone,” he said.

“Everything will increase, even the price of sandwiches. God help everyone,” he said.

Abdullah al-Hamawi, head of the union that represents around 1,700 bakeries across the country, said Jordanians consume some “eight million loaves of bread a day and 16 million in winter.”

Jordan has a population of 9.5 million, 6.6 million of whom are Jordanians. The others include refugees from the wars in Syria and Iraq and Palestinians.

The country has a public debt of some $35 billion, equivalent to 90 percent of its gross domestic product.

The government decided earlier this month to raise the prices of bread and fuel and increase value added tax on goods including cigarettes, fizzy drinks and jewelry.

It hopes to increase tax revenues by $761 million, and has pledged a “financial aid” package to struggling families affected by the price hikes.

On Tuesday, the finance ministry began compensating low-income families, allocating each member 27 dinars ($38) for the year.

Last year, price rises affecting an array of goods and services sparked protests during which there were calls for the cabinet to resign.

In 2016, Jordan secured a $723-million three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund to support economic and financial reforms.

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