AMMAN - Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz announced a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday that officials said consolidates the grip of technocrats charged with speeding up IMF-guided reforms crucial to rejuvenating economic growth.
Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, was appointed by King Abdullah in June to replace Hani al-Mulki, who resigned to defuse a crisis that saw some of the largest protests in years over IMF-driven austerity measures, including tax hikes.
Razzaz downsized the 29-member cabinet to 27 ministers, and removed the health and higher education ministers over alleged nepotism scandals, in an apparent bid to calm widespread discontent over rising economic hardship and corruption. But he kept the key interior, finance and foreign ministry portfolios unchanged.
Razzaz, seen as a better communicator than Mulki, has promised to restore public trust in a country where many blame successive governments for failing to deliver on pledges of reviving growth and curbing corruption.
Razzaz disappointed public opinion and activists when he was first appointed by installing old-guard conservatives and tribal figures in his cabinet who held sway in previous administrations.
Razzaz has already angered unions and civic bodies by reintroducing a modified, IMF-inspired tax bill that makes only cosmetic changes to one that brought down Mulki. But opponents have so far stopped short of calling for new street protests.
They want the government to give priority to fighting graft and cutting public waste.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi Editing by Mark Heinrich) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +962 79 5521407; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))