The decision to raise the prices of bread, gas and fuel oil is a potentially divisive move at a time when public feeling in Jordan is already running high over the Israeli scouring of the West Bank, analysts say. Previous price hikes on state-subsidised items triggered riots in 1989 and 1996. However, IMF approval for the government’s new reform programme is essential if Amman is to secure a wholesale restructuring of its $3,800 million debt at a Paris Club meeting later this year.

Jordan’s total foreign debt stands at about $7,000 million, with total debt servicing estimated at $815 million this year. According to Marto, subsidising oil derivatives costs the government about JD 115 million ($162 million) a year while the cost of subsidising bread, barley and bran is estimated at JD 45 million ($64 million).