COVID-19 posed an unexpected global threat. Indeed, it has spiked a drastic economic downturn in such a short period of time through border closures, prophylactic isolation, social distance, brutal travel inhibition, etc. It has also caused a drastic economic recession in such a short period of time. Moreover, the surge in the use of medicines in hospitals has stimulated a production shortfall in order to meet the needs of the sick. Adverse effects on global health systems with a ripple effect on all aspects of human life as we know it. Sohrabi et al. highlighted the magnitude of the epidemic, as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic a global emergency on 30 January 2020.
For the Maghreb countries, there is no intergovernmental link that unifies them to facilitate speculation on short, medium and long-term solutions. Indeed, it is a feedback loop that is quite complex to dissect.
Indeed, Tunisia is going an extremely difficult period as it is experiencing abysmal economic problems before COVID-19. Moreover, during this period it has asked for donations from the population to meet the expenses that the State could not cover in the fight against the coronavirus.
For Morocco, it is experiencing the worst economic recession since 1999: a fall in tourism, a drop in domestic and external demand). For years, there has been social discontent, caused by the lack of opportunities, economic inequalities, and disparities between regions, which are proliferating.
In Algeria, on the other hand, social mobilization has been inhibited for 56 weeks in order to avoid the risk of infection in a country with poor health infrastructures.
Libya is a conflict zone par excellence since it has been in a civil war for a decade. It reported an extremely low number of infections due to a total lack of information or a low rate of non-testing.
Finally, for Mauritania, it is fighting to avoid the worst. Indeed, it has created a national social solidarity fund to fight against the coronavirus and its consequences.
If this socio-economic crisis caused by COVID-19 is not dealt with properly by the political class, it will have harmful consequences on the Maghreb countries in the medium and long term.
This crisis caused by COVID-19 requires true leadership, visionaries, the unification of an intergovernmental link, transparency, trust, and cooperation.
The personal interests of each nation in the Maghreb countries, the difference in ideologies, internal conflicts, the immediate inhibition of civil wars like Libya and the questioning of this chaotic situation must be left to one side. Indeed, this is the moment when our leaders at the national and local levels must react. While temporary border closures and travel bans may be justified in the short term, such national measures must not stand in the way of a global gathering and a global solution for all.
Despite the complexity, similarity, and socio-economic paradox, and despite being unified on a geopolitical scale there are common recommendations such as:
- Undertaking stimulus measures and social allowance support for the most vulnerable during and after the pandemic.
Social protection, including paid sick leave, saves lives and alleviates human suffering. Indeed, a fiscal stimulus is needed, with well-defined measures to provide assistance to those most affected by the spread of the virus. Money needs to be transferred during the pandemic to help people through an inevitable recession. Social protection, including paid sick leave, can save lives and alleviate human suffering while supporting and contributing to economic recovery. In addition, governments need to strike a balance by allocating proportionate financial resources to help businesses retain workers through financial and tax relief with time limits to support business continuity, job maintenance programs.
- Protecting human rights
The elderly were particularly affected, accounting on average for more than 80% of infections. People with health problems and disabilities are also at risk.
Leaders must take the necessary measures to protect civic and democratic space and help to build and maintain confidence in institutions, as well as to stem the rise of racism and stigmatization.
- Helping SMEs
Direct support for SMEs is urgently needed. Governments can help businesses maintain the flow of essential inputs. Also, consider temporary reductions in wage and social security costs, value-added taxes, and tax rebates. Finally, facilitate the payment of rents and utilities.
- Sustaining learning
Preventing the worsening of inequalities in access to education with special measures. Indeed, a symbiosis between the private sector and the State is necessary.
- Helping Decent Work
Respect human dignity and re-establish specific regulations for this category. Short-time working must be subsidized, and subsidies for long-term employment must be taken into account.
- Stopping the civil war and questioning in Libya
It is an extremely complex country to solve, given the lack of information at all levels.
After this crisis, we will be faced with two palpable hypotheses. The first is to return to the old world we knew, which will lead to the further collapse of the socio-economic pyramid with more harmful problems than before. Second, and this is the most valid hypothesis, is that we need to address the issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to this and future crises.
We need to make a cross-section of everything we do during and after this crisis, which must be geared towards building fairer and more inclusive societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other challenges we face in the Maghreb countries.
On the other hand, we must invest in the human capital that is the genesis of all progress, the health and social protection systems that are rights and not options.
And why not boost once again the subject of the Maghreb monetary union.
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- Sohrabi C, Alsafi Z, O’Neill N, Khan M, Kerwan A, Al-Jabir A, et al. World Health Organization declares global emergency: A review of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Int J Surg. 2020 Apr;76:71–6.
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