Exceptional efforts needed for post-COVID recovery

Khalid Dalal
Khalid Dalal (Photo: Jordan News)
COVID-19 is on its way to being history, even as experts expect that we will have to live with the virus for a longer time than we anticipated. It is clear now it will not continue to cripple normal life, like it has been doing over the past year and a half. However, the real challenge is to deal with the effects the day after. We have to remedy our economic situation, which was deeply and negatively affected by the coronavirus, and to find solutions to historical twin problems — unemployment and poverty.اضافة اعلان

To be fair, efforts are already underway to fix the situation, for example, with programs being implemented by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Jordan Tourism Board. One of them is the recently launched third season of the JD6 million “Urdun Jannah” program. According to one of the Jordan Strategy Forum’s recent reports, the sector was hard hit by the pandemic leading to big losses "with almost 100 travel agencies, 800 restaurants and local cafes, 80 percent of hotels rated 3 stars and below closed, and some 14,000 employees having lost their sources of income."

Another ray of hope was provided by the recently enacted law on private-public partnership, under which a special unit is expected to float tenders related to several projects worth hundreds of millions of dinars in different fields, which are expected to generate jobs for youth across the Kingdom.

In addition, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, last week compiled a report of good economic signs in 2021, compared to last year, including a more than JD652 million (a 34 percent increase compared to the same period last year) rise in domestic revenues during the first four months of this year, among other promising signs indicating that the situation is not as bad as some want us to believe.

Added to that is the success of Gulf states in their fight against the pandemic, which suggests that recovery is underway, and that most of the 600,000 to 700,000 Jordanians working there will likely keep their jobs. Waiting for Gulf countries to give us grants is behind us now. However, they remain big employers of Jordanians, but they still need skilled labor for the projects on the drawing boards or in the pipeline. Therefore, we need to adjust our vocational and technical training programs to meet these requirements, in coordination with authorities in these markets.

More recent good news is that Jordan and the UAE have agreed on a joint economic, commercial, and investment cooperation program for the next stage, which includes seven main areas to strengthen economic relations between the two countries.

Another opportunity, brought about by COVID, is that the work culture has somehow changed. Under the economic pressures, our youth are now more accepting of jobs dominated by foreign labor. We should build on that and create a friendly environment for local labor to steadily replace guest workers, including through the introduction of the necessary legislative changes and training policies.

The ongoing efforts to achieve political reform will hit several targets at once. At the end of the day, political reform is the threshold to improvement in every aspect of public life, which would increase confidence in the country as a stable nation, rich in talent and a good place to do business.

Having said that, we hope that the reported inclination on the part of the government to cancel incentives stipulated in the Investment Law is not true, given the fierce competition in the world now, as every country is planning to lure investors with tax and customs duties exemptions.

And above all, we need to believe in ourselves, relying on an impressive track record of turning challenges into opportunities.