By Jalal Abu Saleh
Amman – “The government must continue developing the social safety system to ensure a decent life for all Jordanians, tie it to health, education, and employment, and seek to reflect its positive impact on all segments of society,” was the clear directive His Majesty King Abdullah gave the newly appointed Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh, showing concern for all citizens, but particularly for vulnerable groups.
The Royal letter of designation further stressed: “The development that took place amidst the COVID-19 pandemic must be utilized to continue implementing support programs through the National Aid Fund, while following best practices, based on the national registry.”
The letter addressed to new government appointed last week \ states the immediate priorities. Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) finds the letter of designation particularly valuable for its focus on social protection and vulnerable groups, especially in view of the exacerbation of the corona crisis in the Kingdom.
There new government is facing, no doubt, a daunting task. Among the challenges, a 23% unemployment rates, a $45 billion debt, and an inadequate social protection system, all of which affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens.
Jordan, like most of the Arab world, has yet to find an efficient working mechanism that may have a positive impact on the less fortunate. To find a practical mechanism to protect and support the vulnerable, there is need for more discussions and collaboration among the private and public sectors, and the civil society.
The new government will most likely find it incumbent to issue effective laws and mechanisms to fight the pandemic and its health and economic consequences, and to protect the vulnerable and poor groups, away from the previous government’s approach of imposing curfews and closing businesses.
The Royal letter of designation clearly and firmly states that fighting COVID-19 is an utmost priority. It stresses the importance of devising immediate executable plans, increasing the capacity of hospitals and of providing health services for citizens.
The government should not only condone and learn from the past. It should also come up with programs capable of tackling the economic, social and political crises that have plagued Jordan.
Nobody is under the illusion that the pandemic will subside soon, but Khasawneh should avoid imposing more curfews that may cause more harm and exacerbate poverty and unemployment rates, and lead to the demise of small- and medium-size businesses.
It is hoped that the new government will exert all needed efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and will commit to an efficient management of its socio-economic outcome, while, at the same time, coming up with immediate solutions for people who lost their sources of income, for the poor and the vulnerable.