Criticism is a necessity for Post-Coronavirus
Written by Jehad Harb
The eighteenth Palestinian government, in its first year in office, was thanked twice as much as any previous government. During the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone praised the Lord for the decisions of the current government in maintaining the spread of Covid-19 in the country. Those who assist in the enforcement of the precautionary health measures also deserve gratitude, including the Palestinian Authority, members of the “White Army” (doctors, nurses, health workers), Palestinian Security Services, members of emergency committees and volunteers in different governorates, as well as the citizens who are highly committed in social distancing measures for the safety and health of the country and its people.
The government’s success in combating the spread of Covid-19 is dependent on two main factors: First of all, the public’s commitment to the preventive measures and procedures issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, particularly social distancing, which relies on personal responsibility, awareness, and self-control; secondly, the readiness of the government at both the health and economic levels, which requires an in-depth analysis of Palestinian health policies through deeply reviewing the healthcare system and examining the potential for change and development, not only physically but also in regards to services provided and financing instruments. I believe that the Coronavirus pandemic provided an opportunity to re-examine our healthcare system, just as countries around the world are currently doing; to reassess how the general budget is used and to redirect funds towards social purposes, especially the health care system in order to prepare for the consequences of any future crises or related needs. It is the responsibility of any current and future government to ensure the safety and health security for its citizens.
The economic difficulties that the current government is encountering are not necessarily because of its own doing, but rather, is the result of successive government policies for more than a quarter of a century. In addition, colonial policies of the Israeli government are driving Palestinians to impoverishment, weakening the government and reducing their ability to invest their limited wealth in the 1967 occupied territories.
Following the speech given by Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, last Sunday, it can be said that the popular saying “our hands are tied” applies to the situation of the government. The Prime Minister, through his speech, urged the private sector and citizens to donate to the Waqf Ezz Fund in order to assist the Palestinian Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Affairs, as well as the workers who are currently unemployed and unable to secure their livelihoods. Dr. Shtayyeh is also working on an economic recovery plan for micro, small, and medium enterprises, which entails a fund with an initial value of $300 million to create incentives through easy banking programs, in cooperation with Arab and Islamic funds. This pandemic imposes further reviews of economic and financial policies that are consistent with the capabilities of Palestinians, looking into possibilities of redistributing financial burdens to citizens in order to lift some weight off the poor and vulnerable and achieve social justice.
There is no doubt that criticism is an important way for the government to listen to others’ perspectives. Criticism is also a necessity that enables all stakeholders to think and rethink challenges, allowing them to dive in deeper to decisions and policies prior to their adoption. This will enable the government to explain its actions and procedures directly to the public, which not only supports it in ensuring transparency and accountability, but also allows it to gain support for the government’s steps, procedures and policies. After the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the national and professional duty of all citizens to transition from appreciation to criticism, which will institutionalize the principle of public participation in shaping all future policies. This will not harm the government; to the contrary, it will help it to overcome health challenges and defeat the negative political, economic and social impacts that are inevitably to come as a result of this pandemic.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or the donor.