Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz says his government is looking to boost growth after pushing through controversial economic reforms (Ahmad GHARABLI)

Washington (AFP) – Jordan’s prime minister has voiced hope that his country will turn to a growth path, after he briefed the International Monetary Fund on fiscal reforms that have sparked protests at home.

Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz, a Harvard-educated economist who took office last year, said he spoke to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on next steps.

“Now that our fiscal health is in order, we want to promote growth,” Razzaz told reporters in Washington late Thursday after his meeting.

He said he also met in Washington with the US Chamber of Commerce to draw greater business interest and was organizing a Jordan investment conference to take place in London in late February.

Lagarde said that Jordan’s income tax hike, approved by lawmakers in November, was a “step in the right direction” but that Jordan “still faces challenging economic and social conditions.”

“Sustaining fiscal consolidation remains critical to preserve macroeconomic stability, which needs to be supported by a faster implementation of reforms to promote jobs and investment and lower business costs,” she said in a statement.

Jordan, whose stability is seen as vital for the volatile Middle East, has virtually no natural resources and plays host to 1.3 million refugees from neighboring Syria.

Alongside the IMF package, Jordan received pledges of $2.5 billion in aid from oil-rich Gulf Arab states in June.

Jordan has witnessed persistent protests against austerity measures led by young people, among whom unemployment runs at 39 percent.

The government went ahead with the income tax bill but, in a concession, raised the threshold at which Jordanian households have to pay.

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