UPDATE 2-Jordan lifts fuel subsidies, sparks protests
Jordan lifted fuel subsidies on Tuesday, aiming to reduce the budget deficit and secure a $2-billion IMF loan, but sparking public protests as gasoline and other prices soared.
More than 1,000 people hit the streets in the capital Amman and small protests erupted in several provincial towns after Islamist and tribal opposition groups said they would demonstrate. Authorities increased security measures across the country.
The move, announced by the cabinet and which takes effect after midnight, is the first major rise in petrol prices since street protests early last year, inspired by the wave of Arab unrest, pushed Jordanian authorities to expand social spending and freeze major fuel price hikes.
The price rises range from more than 50 percent for bottled gas used for cooking, 33 percent for diesel and kerosene for transport and heating and a 14 percent on lower grade petrol.
The government, mindful of public fury that exploded into street clashes in the depressed south of the country after price hikes in 1989 and 1996, had been reluctant to raise fuel prices.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour told state television that the price hikes were now unavoidable.
"If the move was delayed we would have faced a catastrophe and insolvency," he said.