Despite the dismissal of Samir Rifai's government and the formation of a new one earlier this month, demonstrations and sit-ins continue in Amman and in a number of Jordanian governorates. Demonstrators are demanding better living conditions and more freedoms, as well as accountability of those guilty of corruption.
The Youth for Change Movement ("Jayeen"), which calls for constitutional political reforms, continued to hold sit-ins as did former government workers, who are asking for job opportunities after they lost their jobs with the government.
Sit-ins this week were staged by workers of Mu'tah and Hussein bin Talal universities, as well as by investors in Amman's Stock Exchange, who have reportedly suffered losses amounting to one billion dinars ($1.4 million) this month.
Workers of the Petroleum Refinery Company, the only refinery in Jordan, have called for a demonstration on March 7th, to protest the company's failure to increase wages.
Economic expert Dr. Yousef Mansour said that the protests come as a result of the deficit in the public budget, which has gone over $1.4 million; the debt that has exceeded $15 billion; and unemployment which has reached 14% according to government reports, whereas unemployment among Bachelors Degree holders has exceeded 20%.
"The [Rifai] government had announced that the country's budget for 2011 did not include job creation, which crushed the hopes of many, who are out of work," Mansour said. "In addition, the salary increases that were approved at the beginning of 2011 (20 Dinars or 28 Dollars), does not match the inflation rates."
Mohammed al-Sneid, the Chairman of the Committee of the Daily Wage Workers who were employed with the ministries and other government agencies, told Al-Shorfa, "The demands of the workers are fair, especially that hundreds of them were terminated or dismissed under the pretext that the projects they had worked on, had ended. This threatens their livelihood and their families".
Labour affairs expert Amal al-Damen, said, "The current labour movement is unprecedented in Jordan. Since the beginning of February, sit-ins and protests have intensified and have not stopped. They have several demands most important of which are to secure a decent living and job security."
She said that the demands, which have intensified, derive their strength from the wave of protests in the region. The sit-ins are characterised by peacefulness and are not intended to sabotage or cause harm, she added.
On February 20th, Jordanian King Abdullah II emphasised in a speech he made, during his meeting with heads and members of the executive, legislative and judicial authorities, that, "Nothing can influence the policy of openness, the spirit of tolerance and the culture of pluralism and acceptance of other constructive and honest opinions, because these are Jordanian constants that do not change."
He added, "Reform is our unwavering will, because it is in the interest of our people. It means progress and keeping up with modern times." He said that he is waiting for the government to present him with its recommendations on the mechanism of a comprehensive dialogue, to discuss all the necessary measures to be taken in order to realise political and economic change.
Al-Damen said that "King Abdullah's speech reassured the citizens of his respect for their rights to express their opinion. It also called for the government to accelerate the pace of reform that is sought by the workers."
In the midst of the protests in Jordan calling for political and economic reform, some have succeeded in achieving positive results, such as the teachers' demand to form a teacher's union.
Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit told parliament on February 20th that it will establish a union for teachers if his cabinet receives a vote of confidence.
The Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Revival of Teachers Union in Jordan, Mustafa al-Rawashdeh, told Al-Shorfa that "the sit-ins of the members of the committee asking for the establishment of a union to protect one hundred thousand Jordanian teachers, especially with regards to their low salaries, are fair."
He said that "the government of Samir Rifa did not respond to the demands at all, while the new government has begun to respond and has announced its support for the teachers' demands."