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Economists urge government to adopt ESC recommendations on COVID-19 crisis

By Rana Husseini - Apr 09,2020 - Last updated at Apr 09,2020

Jordan has imposed one of the most stringent measures in the region to curb the spread of the coronavirus, putting in place a nationwide curfew (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN – Economists on Thursday called on the government to adopt recommendations that came in an Economic and Social Council (ESC) report on the COVID-19 crisis.

The report, “Initial Response to Face COVID-19 in Jordan”, suggested several recommendations including halting international debt payments and to stop paying allowances for government employees, said Ahmad Awad, director of Phenix Centre, who was one of the members who drafted the ESC report.

Other recommendations included providing incentives for the manufacturing sector, to depend more on the national products rather than the international goods to strengthen the economy and for the Social Security Corporation to compensate employees who suffer from work stoppage, Awad said.

Some of the recommendations also called for cutting a certain percentage of the salaries of high-level officials, deputies and Senates, and at the same time providing financial support to the small and medium enterprises to help them survive the crisis and keep their staff, he added.

“The document included several recommendations to face the crisis, and it is comprehensive and reflects all the concerns by many sectors,” Awad told The Jordan Times.

He added that “we hope that the government will not act in a hasty manner and allow more business to resume before ensuring that COVID-19 is under control, otherwise, we will see the virus spreading again in Jordan”.

Former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Mary Kawar said commenting on the ESC report that “it is a very positive contribution from an organisation that represents various segments of society, which aims to encourage dialogue and build consensus between the different stakeholders on critical policy issues”.

“Today more than ever, we need such a body in face of all the difficult decisions, which the country as a whole need to address,” Kawar told The Jordan Times.

The recommendations are holistic and complimentary because they “do not only address what the government should do but are clear on burden sharing and inclusivity, including the role of the private sector and civil society,” according to Kawar.

The ESC document also touches on the national budget, and the urgent need to revise it in light of the emergency situation as well as addressing the fiscal policy in this paper through reprioritising the budget is very welcome, Kawar said.

Meanwhile, economy columnist and expert Musa Saket also praised the ESC report saying it is very important because it addresses the problems that both the government and the private sector are facing.

“There are many solutions and recommendations by the ESC that are mostly going to help both the government and the private sector and end up providing more liquidity, especially for the government to help the ailing businesses,” Saket told The Jordan Times.

“There are some entities that need to be dissolves, such as boards and the Parliament, because we are living under defence laws, which means there are no real role for them at this point of time and this way the government can use the money of their salaries on other sectors in need,” according to Saket.

Saket also said that “the government should allow more businesses to return to work gradually and under strict health measures so that they can pay salaries to their employees and keep the economy cycle going”.

“The government allowed some businesses and grocery stores to open under strict rules, and I believe they should do the same with other businesses gradually, and anyone who violates the health rules they will be ordered to shut down,” Saket said.

SADAQA Core team member Sahar Aloul told The Jordan Times that the majority of the recommendations will help alleviate the negative implications of the COVID-19, which has impacted the social and economic status.

“As an organisation that is concerned with the care economy, we urge the government to take into account that childcare is a crosscutting sector that other economic sectors rely on,” Aloul said.

Aloul explained that “working mothers and parents in vital sectors, such as the health sector that have not stopped operating and the other businesses that will resume operations soon, will need childcare services to take care of their children while they are at work”.

“This means that the government should look into solutions for that sector to resume operations on the one hand, and on the other hand, support childcare givers and those working in the day-care sector, who already suffer from precarious working conditions, including poverty and lack of social protection, making them vulnerable and COVID-19 has increased their vulnerability,” Aloul said.

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