Using COVID 19 as Social Equity Booster

Boats travel along the Mekong River in front of high-rise properties and under-construction buildings in Phnom Penh on May 12, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
  • Cambodianess
  • May 17, 2020 6:34 AM

As the time has come for cautious de-confinement in Europe while fearing a second wave of the pandemic, economic growth forecasts for all countries are dramatically tumbling as unemployment keeps on growing. 

With tourism and the garment industry—the two cornerstones of its economy—hard hit, Cambodia’s “official” economy is on its knees while the informal working sector sinks.

Unemployed garment workers will benefit from a minimum salary of approximately $70. But those of the informal working sector qualify for nothing. 

The government has asked the local authorities to produce lists of people who will need help. There is therefore a form of government humanitarian assistance to attempt to heal the most vivid social wounds to avoid seeing Cambodia go through grim periods of famine again.    

Still, this form of assistance, however generous it might be, puts little or no emphasis on the respect of human dignity owed to everyone in a modern society. 

Charity is not social protection.

In a recent report on the economic impact of major epidemics over the last decades, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted that they mainly affect the least qualified people. 

“Governments should use this opportunity for change where informal work and self-employment are pervasive and social protection systems are scant,” IMF experts recommended.

“Expanding social assistance systems, introducing new transfers, boosting public work programmes to offer job opportunities, giving financing opportunities to sustain employment, and progressive tax measures all are likely to be part of the policy mix to take the edge off the devastating distributional consequences from the pandemic,” they said.

Let’s have a dream that Cambodia will emerge from this crisis with a strengthened social system!


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