Social protection systems in the MENA region are often underfunded and suffer from lack of adequacy or insufficient coverage. Governments, restrained by austerity politics and focusing on fiscal consolidation, brush calls for extended social security aside as unfinanceable. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable societies can become if basic protection is not available to those who need it the most: women, people with disabilities, informal workers and more.
The countries in focus of this project, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan have all been involved in loan agreements with the IMF in recent years. In fact, the speed with which these agreements have followed each other has substantially increased since the political rupture of 2011. These agreements usually have a set of conditions attached, mainly around fiscal consolidation and cuts to public spending. At the same time, by relying on expertise from international financial institutions and the adherence to neo-classical economics, economic reform programs have focused on the same outcomes. Such reforms have failed to deliver for the majority of the people. This is confirmed by a widening gap in wealth and incomes as well as continued rounds of socio-economic protests.
In a situation where austerity and increasing debt will continue to burden state budgets, how can we work towards a more universal, inclusive and adequate social protection? Which narratives around social protection do need to change? The project will work on academic studies to collect new evidence, digital storytelling to include as many people as possible into the discussion and forums and workshops to bring together relevant stakeholders.
The pandemic has exposed the weakness of social protection in the region, but it also opened a historic chance to discuss a major expansion of social protection coverage.
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