The decision by President Ivan Duque follows violent demonstrations in several cities across the country against the government’s unpopular tax bill, which the protesters believe would render them poorer amid virus pandemic.

A riot police officer fires tear gas at demonstrators during clashes following a protest against a tax reform bill launched by President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia, on 30 April 2021.
A riot police officer fires tear gas at demonstrators during clashes following a protest against a tax reform bill launched by President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia, on 30 April 2021. (AFP)

Colombian President Ivan Duque has caved in to the widespread anger and said he would overhaul a proposed tax reform that many said would leave them poorer during the pandemic.

Duque announced he was shelving clauses that would lower the income tax threshold to broaden the tax base and raise value-added taxes on goods and services.

He acted two days after tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets across the country to denounce the proposed tax changes.

They were rejected across the board – by opposition parties, unions, students and civil society groups that complained that the reforms came at the worst possible time and were particularly harmful to the middle class.

Even some in Duque's party opposed his plan.

READ MORE: Thousands of Colombians protest tax reform amid pandemic 

New draft

"I have given very clear instructions to the finance ministry for it to ... compose a new draft with congress," Duque said.

The measures had meant to raise some $6.3 billion over 10 years for Colombia, which saw GDP drop 6.8 percent in 2020 – its worst performance in half a century.

Colombia, where almost one in five people are unemployed and the minimum wage is the equivalent of $248 per month, is battling a deadly new wave of Covid-19.

At 2.8 million, the country of 50 million inhabitants has the third-highest number of known coronavirus infections in Latin America, behind Brazil and Argentina.

It has registered more than 73,200 deaths.

While Duque has sought to portray the tax reform as a tool to mitigate the economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic, the initiative faced many obstacles in a legislature where the ruling party has no outright majority.

READ MORE: Colombia defence minister dies from Covid-19 complications

Source: AFP