The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many countries to take precautionary measures to reduce spread of the coronavirus. Within days of confirming its first case of Covid-19, Jordan implemented an immediate plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus, starting with a complete lockdown of the country, which prohibits all kinds of movement outside. After a couple of days passed, it was eased down to a curfew from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. that permitted people to leave their homes for essential trips to purchase food and medicine. The curfew is still currently in place.
During these difficult times, the economic situation worldwide has taken a big hit. So, the YES alumni in Jordan wanted to learn more about the pandemic’s economic impact, and brainstorm ways to help their country in the future. The YES alumni reached out to the Jordanian political economy analyst, Laith AlAjlouni to lead an online webinar about the impact of Covid-19 on the Jordanian Economy. Laith works as a senior economic researcher at Jordan Strategy Forum with published articles in MEI, ISPI, LSE Middle East center, and Jordan times.
On April 8, Laith began the webinar by discussing how the economy is being affected both locally and internationally, and the current interruptions in the cash flow. Many Jordanian businesses started to struggle meeting their fixed costs such as wages, bank installments, rents, water and energy costs. Consequentially, many of these businesses resorted to measures that would help reduce their costs. 67% of Jordanian employers considered laying off some of their workers if the shutdown continued for a longer period. If this move were to take place, this would add to the existing 19% unemployment rate.
One of the Jordanian sectors that will be heavily impacted by the shutdown is its tourism industry, and it will still be negatively affected later in the future. Day laborers who work in informal sectors which count for 52% of the Jordanian labor force and the 95% of small to medium Jordanian enterprises and companies have also been negatively affected by the shutdown. Laith continued to explain that as a result of these impacted industries, Jordan needs to stimulate the sectors that were not impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, like ICT, logistics, consulting services, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals.
During the webinar, the expert and the 16 alumni attendees discussed potential scenarios that could be implemented by the government to help and stimulate the recovery of Jordanian economy in the upcoming months. For now, the government has programs to help the country support individuals who live under minimum wage or those who are work in informal sectors and have no source of income during the shutdown.
When asked about his time with the YES alumni Laith said, “The discussion was vibrant. The YES alumni showed a great interest in serving their society. I believe that the participants are promising future leaders for Jordan.” The YES alumni also spoke highly of the webinar as YES alumna Marah Abu Amrieh remarked, “As I come from a family with a banking background and I myself am pursuing my studies in economics, I believe that knowledge is the key. No matter one’s educational background, everyone should be informed on the impact of Covid-19 on the current economic situation as this will better enable us to foresee what will happen in the future and not be taken by surprise.”
Marah Abu Amrieh (YES 2014-2015, Jordan, hosted by PAX in Southaven, MS)