|Impoverished Jordanian families to receive royal assistance
|Thousands of impoverished Jordanian families reeling from recent price hikes are expected to receive precious royal assistance, including roofs over their heads, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The royal court has announced a series of measures to alleviate the financial burden faced by many Jordanians since an unpopular decision last month to raise oil prices for the second time in months.
Breaking with tradition, this year the court will not organize its daily lavish iftar meals to break the fast which it usually holds for officials, diplomats, the media, tribal leaders and other figures.
Instead the money spent on these huge events will be handed out to feed the poor.
So-called "welfare convoys" will criss-cross the country to distribute enough food supplies to sustain a family for a period of six months starting with Ramadan, the palace said in a statement.
The assistance will cover 21,000 families across Jordan.
An additional 61,000 families, considered to live under the threshold of poverty, will also receive food aid or a one-time 50-dinar ($70) cash payment from the national aid fund, officials said.
The government and the court also plan to hold iftar meals for the poor nationwide as well as launch plans to house the needy, officials said.
"During the month of Ramadan 600 housing units will be given by the king to needy families in the northern and southern governorates," a court official said.
"This is part of a bigger scheme to give land to all low-income families, not just the poor," the official said.
King Abdullah II ordered houses to be given to the poor specifically during Ramadan in a show of solidarity due to the tough economic conditions, the official added.
According to official figures, 14 percent of Jordan's 5.4 million inhabitants are poor, but unofficial estimates puts their number at 31 percent.
"10,000 families need urgent assistance," Social Development Minister Abdullah Oweidat said recently, adding that his ministry will organize the aid drive in cooperation with the private sector and charity organizations.
In September the government increased fuel prices by 5 to 22 percent, for the second time since July when prices went up by 10 to 33 percent, to shore up a budget deficit exacerbated by rising world oil prices.
Meanwhile Jordanians have complained that greedy merchants have raised the prices of many staple goods ahead of Ramadan.
"Shopkeepers know that people spend and buy more food during Ramadan, so they went ahead and increased their prices, knowing that no matter what, people will buy," said Samir Ali.
"I wish the government would crack down on the shops," said Ali, a family man employed in a private company.
The Daily Star