Jordan cuts social security contributions amid coronavirus chaos

A Jordanian taxi driver wears a face mask amid concerns over coronavirus as Greater Amman Municipality employees sanitizes public transport at a station in Jordan, March 17, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 March 2020

Jordan cuts social security contributions amid coronavirus chaos

  • Razzaz told Jordanians from the Crisis Management Center that he is suspending the 2014 act
  • Razzaz said that a crisis committee was established on Jan. 24 and has taken 131 decisions to protect Jordanians from the coronavirus

AMMAN: Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Thursday suspended some clauses of the Social Security Act. It was his first order as military ruler following martial law being enacted on March 18.
Razzaz, who praised personal and institutional initiatives, told Jordanians from the Crisis Management Center that he is suspending the 2014 act.
“As a result of the extraordinary situation and to support the private sector and to provide for living needs of our people, we are issuing military order number one suspending certain clauses of the social security regulations.”
Musa Subihi, the spokesman of the Social Security Authority, told Arab News that the new order will allow companies to reduce the mandatory commitment of paying 21.75 percent on each staff member to 5.4 percent. This will take place for the months of March, April and May.
Dr. Natheer Obeidat, head of the Jordanian Health Ministry’s epidemic section, told Arab News that as of midnight on Wednesday the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Jordan stands at 69. “Newly updated results will be issued at about 10 p.m. every evening based on lab results.”
Saad Mouasher, chair of the board of Al Ahli Bank,told Arab News that two years ago it was the first bank to give customers the ability to reschedule loan payments twice a year. “From today, all loan payments have been rescheduled entirely unless otherwise requested by our customer.”
Razzaz said that a crisis committee was established on Jan. 24 and has taken 131 decisions to protect Jordanians from the coronavirus, including the decision to fly Jordanians and other Arabs from Wuhan and to place returning Jordanians in hotels. Amjad Adaileh, minister for media affairs, told the press that 4,892 people returning from abroad are under mandatory 14-day quarantine in 34 hotels in Amman and the Dead Sea.
Adnan Abu Odeh, adviser to the late King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that the leadership of Jordan is handling the crisis well. “Razzaz has done the logical work that should be done in such a circumstance. He and his team have followed the World Health Organization protocols very closely.”
The prime minister reiterated the need to limit travel and movement to essential services. “The military has been deployed to prevent anyone except for medical and other essential services from traveling across city limits.”
Mohammad Abu Safieh, anchor of the popular Taxi Fm program on Radio Al-Balad, told Arab News that the government has been sending mixed messages, especially to licensed taxis companies and drivers. “Initially they stopped buses and allowed taxis and application companies to work, but on Wednesday night and without prior warning taxis were stopped and impounded. By midnight,180 were stopped and the drivers were arrested only to be released later on orders of the minister of transportation,” he told Arab News.
On Thursday morning, Salah Lowzi, head of the transport regulatory committee, told the press that licensed yellow taxis and taxis working on licensed applications — such as Uber and Carrim — can continue to work for essential medical needs.
In his address to Jordanians, the prime minister said that “if the government errs, we will have the courage to make the needed corrections.”

Eritrean navy urged to free dozens of Yemeni fishermen from custody

Fishermen work on their boats in the southern city of Aden, Yemen, in this file photo taken on March 18, 2015. (AP)
Updated 7 min 28 sec ago

Eritrean navy urged to free dozens of Yemeni fishermen from custody

  • Naval attacks getting more brazen, say Yemenis

AL-MUKALLA: There have been calls for Eritrea to release dozens of Yemeni fishermen who were caught last week after sailing into a maritime flashpoint.

On Wednesday 15 armed boats from Eritrea’s navy seized 120 Yemeni fishermen from the Red Sea between Hanish Islands and the coast of Khokha.

Eritrea briefly occupied the Hanish Islands in 1995 before retreating after the international arbitration court granted Yemen sovereignty over them. But Yemeni authorities complain that the Eritreans have attacked and seized hundreds of Yemeni fishermen over the last couple of years.

The most recent incursion triggered a brief clash with the Yemeni coastguards that ended with the capture of seven Eritreans, local security officials said. On Thursday the Eritreans released 62 Yemeni fishermen after confiscating their boats.

“We demand all concerned authorities to work on releasing our colleagues and their boats that are in Eritrea’s custody,” Khaled Al-Zarnouqi, the head of Yemen’s Shabab Al- Khokha fishery association, told Arab News on Saturday. “We demand the international community, the (Saudi-led) coalition and the (Yemeni) government to protect us from the repeated attacks by Eritrea’s navy that violates Yemeni sovereignty, attacks Yemeni fishermen and seizes boats.”

Hashem, one of the fishermen who was released on Thursday, said that armed Eritrean vessels approached their boats on Tuesday and asked them to sail to Eritrea’s Ras Tarma.

“They were tough,” Hashem told Arab News, preferring to be identified by his first name. “Before releasing us, they gave us little fuel and rickety boats and asked us to sail back home.”

The Eritreans refused to release their boats. “Each boat costs YER2.5 million ($9,987). They seized the finest and most expensive boats and allowed us to sail back with the worst ones.”

Local security officials and fishermen say that Eritrea’s naval attacks have become more brazen and are getting closer to the Yemeni coastline.

“They have attacked Yemeni fishermen less than 17 miles from the Yemeni coastline,” a local security official who documents Eritrea’s navy attacks on Yemeni fishermen told Arab News. “The Eritreans are also still holding 24 fishermen who were detained in the Red Sea on Dec. 1, 2019 and refuse to release them,” he said, adding that many fishermen were thinking of taking up arms to protect themselves.

Yemen’s coast guard authority crumbled in early 2015 when the Iran-backed Houthis expanded across Yemen after taking over Sanaa, triggering heavy clashes with their opponents.

Since the beginning of its military operations in Yemen in support of the internationally- recognized government, the Saudi-led coalition has trained and armed hundreds of coast guard troops and deployed them along the country’s coastline.

Yemeni officials say they are battling Eritrea’s navy attacks, Houthi arms' smugglers and drug gangs.