Q&A with anthropology professor Hania Sholkamy | On the need to rethink social spending as crisis response after COVID-19

#Corona   #covid-19 response   #crisis   #Egypt   #Hania Sholkamy   #response   #social spending  

With the stark worldwide economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Egypt’s government stepped in to try to keep its economy afloat. 

In came a sweeping package of measures directed at investors and industry, and energy subsidies billed to cost the government as much as LE6 billion were also announced, while major tax give-aways and cash support are also on offer.

To support informal laborers struggling to find work amid the downturn, the Manpower Ministry dispersed three payouts of LE500 as a special relief measure during lockdown. However, the program had limited reach and saw substantial delays, stretching from May to August though it was initially due to be paid out three times over consecutive months.

Despite these measures, the coronavirus pandemic laid bare the gaps in Egypt’s social protection policies. 

To speak about the need to imagine a new social protection program that is based on inclusion and that could be a locomotive for growth, Mada Masr sat down with Hania Sholkamy, an anthropology professor and member of the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo, following a panel that was organized by the Phenix Center for Economics and Informatics Studies and the Arab Reform Initiative about the social protection policies put in place for the informal labor sector during the pandemic. Sholkamy, who helped design the Takaful and Karama cash transfer programs that have been in place since 2014, talked about how the two programs and the grants to informal workers were used during the pandemic