Coronavirus: in the Maghreb, traders and workers facing the economic crisis

Algerians receive masks in the suburbs of Algiers on May 21, 2020. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

Text by: Jeanne Richard Follow

While the confinement is extended until June 13 in Algeria, until June 10 in Morocco and that in Tunisia the deconfinement continues, the fear of an economic crisis spreads. The concerns are particularly strong for small traders and people who do odd jobs despite state aid.


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Since the beginning of March in the Maghreb, small street vendors, day workers and small shops are over. Hairdressers, hardware stores and clothing stores have their shutters down because of the measures decided to fight the Covid-19 pandemic . Even if governments have disbursed aid to help workers deprived of their scarce resources during confinement and organized food distributions in certain disadvantaged neighborhoods, the social and economic difficulties are great.

Read: The response, country by country: In the Maghreb, early measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus

In Algeria , 5 million people received 10,000 dinars (around 70 euros) during Ramadan, barely a quarter of the average salary. However, this helped reduce social tensions, according to economist Abderrhamane Mebtoul. For him, the difficulty is to target people in need when he estimates that the informal sector represents 50% of the country's active population. Today, nearly 6 million people are undeclared, poorly registered and without social protection.

However, Abderrhamane Mebtoul does not fear in Algeria a social explosion in the next 18 months at least. According to him, this is an opportunity to take advantage of this time to imagine a new model and initiate a recovery in the economy.

The same problems are encountered in Morocco and Tunisia.

In the Cherifian kingdom, according to official data, almost 10% of the population was able to benefit from direct aid. The Economic Watch Committee responsible for monitoring the impact of the health crisis estimates that of the 4.3 million families deriving their income from the informal sector or from precarious occupations, 3.7 million benefited from direct aid from 800 to 1,200 dirhams (75 to 110 euros) per month depending on the size of the household.

What about families who have received nothing? Especially since, due to delays in setting up, only 40% of them said at the end of April that they had received aid from the State or their employer, according to the High Commission for Planning, the body responsible for statistics.

Towards a new economic crisis?

In Tunisia, aid of 200 dinars was distributed to almost 20% of the population in April. And even if since the beginning of May the deconfinement follows its course and that the work resumes gradually, hundreds of people always line up every day in front of the post office to receive the aids that the State still distributes.

If the difficult page of containment turns, the future remains very uncertain. Like its neighbors, the country will not have the cash necessary to be able to subsidize aid for very long. The difficulties of companies are already starting to translate into layoffs and a new economic crisis is looming. Some subsidies should however remain for the most deprived in order to avoid an explosion of misery.

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  • Maghreb
  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • Economic crisis

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