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Political economy models framing dialogue around social security amendments

Oct 04,2022 - Last updated at Oct 04,2022

The series of meetings and discussions launched by the Social Security Corporation (SSC) about eighteen months ago, regarding its proposed amended law, was an opportunity to explain the drivers and goals behind SSC’s proposed amendments, and more importantly, to solicit feedback from various stakeholders. The dialogue has targeted workers and employers, young and senior citizens, employees and retirees, politicians and economists from “Left” to “Right”.

Initially the proposed law amendments were conservative, however, SSC being responsive to witnessed needs of stakeholders, made serious refinements to its proposition to better meet the expectations and ambitions of SSC beneficiaries and stakeholders. This beneficiary focused approach is inspired by the ultimate role of social security systems around the world in providing adequate social protection with maximum inclusiveness.

The dialogue was not only an opportunity to listen to different opinions, but also to acknowledge different models of criticism of the proposed law. This understanding of opposition to the law and models of criticism is important to identify best course of action and respond accordingly.

The first is the "Realism" model which represents those who dealt with the amendments from an objective and constructive manner. They acknowledge the problems and challenges, and agree on goals, but don’t necessarily agree on the measures and approaches addressing them. In this context, we shall admit that the discussions under such a model were quite useful and beneficial, not only in refining the amendments but also by bringing to the plate new ideas which in a way or another reflect the priorities of our stakeholders and particularly the “most in need”. Constructive Criticism” is a concept that shall never put behind, simply because there is always a room for improvement.

The second model is the "Idealism", to which its followers, intentionally or unintentionally, are close to their peers in "realism", they recognise the existence of problems, challenges and even with the goals, but they prefer to leave the situation over what it is and not deal with them until the ideal conditions exist, which barely applies even in the most developed countries. The discussions and critics usually focus on the distribution of responsibilities and roles, who shall do this or that, and whether it’s the appropriate time to proceed with reforms.

The third model is “Skepticism,” whose adopters take a questionable position on the motives behind the proposed amendments, they do not recognise the existence of the problem and of course do not agree with the objectives and hence on the need to reform. The motives behind those who fall under this model cannot be asserted, but they usually resort to using counter-emotional arguments for any reformist step, and resorting to superficial analyses to mislead the beneficiaries of modifications and move them to defend the minority exploiting any loopholes in the system.

These three models are not limited to social security amendments, they also apply to any proposed reform in legislation, programmes and policies. Social Security today stands very close to the realistic model and tries to bring the ideal closer to it. As an institution in charge of ensuring adequate and comprehensive social protection for subsequent generation, we must educate our stakeholders, with a transparent manner, about all the issues that skeptics resort to raising and tightening the noose on "rejectionists" for the sake of rejection, who avoid approaching realism, only because it strips them of their nihilism.

The goals and drivers of the proposed amendments to Social Security Law are clear and falls under two pillars, the first is to upgrade and enhance the social protection system and the second is to support the financial sustainability of social security. The role of SSC is no longer traditional or stereotypical, and the role that the SSC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic showed the agility and responsive approach we adopted, which was the drivers to rethink its roles in the future to further expand and ensure a wider scope of social protection for successive generations, and perform an institutional umbrella to deal with any challenges that may arise in the future.

We must all realise that reform and change is always a subject of debate and opinions, and it can only be enhanced by open discussions, transparency and constructive criticism, however, criticism for the sake of distraction and doubt is one of the easiest and most mastered arts, but it will never take us a step forward.

 

Hazim Rahahleh is director general of the Social Security Corporation

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