Lower House, JEF policy paper presents measures to strengthen economy post-coronavirus crisis

The Lower House, in cooperation with the Jordan Economic Forum, on Monday submitted a joint policy paper to the government on strengthening the capacities of economic sectors to respond to the implications of the coronavirus.
The recommendations were approved during a meeting chaired by Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh in the presence of Chairman of the Jordan Economic Forum (JEF) Khair Abu Sailik, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
According to Tarawneh, the aim of the policy paper is to support the efforts of the government, as directed by His Majesty King Abdullah, to form a plan to protect Jordan’s national economy for the post-coronavirus period.
Abu Sailik said that “unprecedented, exceptional and bold” measures are required to respond to the current situation, noting that the paper aims to enhance the economy’s strength in light of the expected global economic slowdown.
The recommendations called for the formation of a national team representing the public and private sectors, civil society organisations and universities to establish a plan to stimulate economic growth post-coronavirus according to specific timelines, measurable indicators and feedback at “all stages of implementation”.
They also called for resuming production and creating a plan to stimulate and support the Jordanian economy during the post-coronavirus stage based on five axes.
The five axes include the private sector; the social safety net and labour; measures for vital and highly affected sectors; the gradual return to economic activity and the opportunities derived from the coronavirus crisis.
The paper recommended strengthening the capabilities of the private sector through the immediate postponement, scheduling and structuring of measures in place at Jordanian banks to alleviate the effects of the crisis on companies and individuals.
It also highlighted the importance of finding a fair, legal solution for insured individuals who paid insurance fees due and did not benefit from insurance benefits as a result of the Defence Law, and suggested an extended tax filing period.
It also recommended continuing to reduce the differences in fuel prices category to zero until the end of 2020.
The paper further recommended setting a clear plan for communicating with Jordanians, especially students who have been stranded abroad in countries affected by COVID-19, stressing the need to bring them back to the Kingdom safely.
Regarding the social safety net and labour, the paper drew attention to enabling employees in suspended sectors who get unpaid leave to benefit from unemployment insurance for a period of six months without having to terminate their contracts with their employers.
It also suggested designing an employee retention programme for companies in the sectors most affected by the coronavirus crisis, namely tourism and transportation, provided that half of the employees’ salaries be paid by the employers and the other half by the Social Security Corporation’s (SSC) unemployment insurance.
The proposal stipulated that the salaries must be a maximum ofJD500 and must be paid for a period of three months, provided that the employers maintain the workers. Implementing this plan is expected to cost a total of JD60 million.
It also suggested allocating a window for providing facilitated loans in specific sectors for businesses with social security that havepaid into the SSC for more than three years. Loans are recommended to be set at a value between JD1,500 and JD5,000.
The proposal stipulated that these loans be repaid within three years, the paper said, adding that JD50 million should be allocated for these loans.
The paper called for transferring JD100 for a period of two months to people working in the informal economy who support families and do not receive National Aid Fund assistance or have SSC subscriptions. This scheme is expected to benefit 100,000 people at an estimated cost of JD20 million.
It also proposed increasing the JD146 million approved within the budget for the National Aid Fund by 50 per cent to reach JD219 million. As of now, up to 80,000 families are benefitting, and with the 50-per-cent increase, 120,000 families are expected to benefit.
The recommendations also included increasing support for the Jordan Tourism Board to enable it to increase its campaigns around the world to revitalise tourism in Jordan. It recommended that electricity prices for the tourism sector, including hotels, be reduced by 20 per cent and that tourist facilities be exempted from 50 per cent of licensing fees during 2020, among other recommendations.
Regarding the agricultural sector, the paper stressed the need for a reorganisation ofagricultural production patterns, in line with the potential shortage of traditional import sources.
Regarding opportunities derived from the coronavirus crisis, the paper recommended taking advantage of the competitiveness of qualified Jordanian human capital, as well as the Kingdom’s “favourable conditions” for projects and competitive wages by establishing Jordan's position as a centre for digital outsourcing in the region and the world.
The paper also emphasised the importance of building highly efficient comprehensive electronic payment systems and platforms in order to serve various economic and market sectors.
In regards to investment expansion and transformation, the paper recommended that the government, represented by the Jordan Oil Terminals Company, cooperate with oil derivatives marketing companies to purchase and store quantities of oil during the current stage at the maximum storage capacity, given that oil prices have been reaching low levels during the coronavirus crisis.
It also recommended that factories and companies expand production of sterilisers, cleaning materials, medical supplies like gloves and masks, medicines and vaccines for Jordan in order to ensure that local demand is met and that the Kingdom is able to export as well.
Jordan Times
6 April 2020