07 Jan

By Razan Abdelhadi, Jordan News

AMMAN — Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh issued on Monday Defense Order No. 52, which extended the duration of the “Estidama” and “Himayah” protection programs, provided by the Social Security Corporation (SSC) and associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, until the end of June of 2022.

Experts expressed conflicting opinions on the importance of sustaining the programs. Proponents of their abolition said that there is no need for these programs to continue, given that the economy is beginning to recover, whereas those in favor of their continuation said that they are important, given that the repercussions of the pandemic are still being felt. 

Estidama covers 50 percent of workers’ wages in businesses and organizations that are unable to operate due to the pandemic. Himayah extends that coverage to those employed in tourism and transportation. 

In remarks to Jordan News, Director of the Workers’ House Hamada Abu Nijmeh contended that the government did not take into consideration the impact the defense order has on the rights of workers, because “like previous defense orders, it relied on arrangements between the SSC and employers, without taking into account that the insurance law and its system are all found to serve the workers and to protect their wages and rights.” 

Abu Nijmeh said that the provisions of insurance and protection stipulated in the Social Security Law are based on a direct relationship between workers and the SSC, without employers’ involvement. 

He added that the law does not permit the SSC to agree with employers on any arrangements related to workers' rights and entitlements, and that what is happening in this regard “constitutes an explicit violation of the main purpose of the existence of social security and its (programs).” 

He also said that Defense Order 52 maintains the authority of the Director General of Social Security to determine the establishments in which workers' wages may be reduced within “Estidama” program, so that the worker receives 85 percent of his wages, as stipulated in the previous order No. 45, “a power that is not linked to any specific restrictions or rules”.

He pointed that there is still a “real problem” in the legal formulation of defense orders and that this could have been avoided through “more clear and comprehensive” language.

Mousa Al-Subaihi, an insurance and social protection expert and former spokesman for the SSC told Jordan News, that the SSC should end all its protection programs, “due to the large expenditures that must be borne by the SSC”. 

He added that the value of the Social Security Investment Fund’s financial assets will drop more in the next period if the SSC continues with its programs.
For his part, Asaad Al-Qawasmi, who represents the clothing sector at the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, told Jordan News that the support programs helped the clothing sector retain its workers despite the pandemic. 

He also stressed the need to continue including the clothing sector in the protection programs moving forward, in order to encourage shop owners to expand their businesses. 

Industrialist and economic writer Musa Al-Saket told Jordan News that the protection programs had saved a good number of companies that were affected by the pandemic. 

Saket found it unfortunate that “some sectors were unable to apply for the programs on the pretext that they were not significantly affected,” urging the government to reclassify the affected sectors again so that more sectors could benefit from the programs. 

He explained that companies in certain sectors might be highly affected, but “were jilted due to the fact that they were not among the most affected ... sectors”. 

SSC spokesperson Shaman Al-Majali told Jordan News that the corporation’s selection of the most affected sectors was based on governmental reports, in addition to decisions taken by the SSC, adding that the SSC has tried its best to cover all affected sectors. 

The SSC said in a press statement that the number of establishments benefiting from the Estidama and Estidama+ programs reached more than 2,400 establishments, employing more than 41,000 workers. 

The corporation indicated that the defense order allowed the enterprises benefiting from Estidama program to reduce old-age insurance contributions by 50 percent for some or all of its employees for the duration of the program.

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