Cameroon’s COVID-19 Control Measures : Maladapted Solutions to a Serious Problem

The Cameroon government’s COVID-19 control measures are inappropriate for job protection. This is the outcome of a study I conducted recently. The study aimed to assess the impact of COVID-19 on formal and informal employment sectors in Cameroon.

Descriptive analysis, chi-square test and logistical analyses were used to analyse data collected from 827 households and 160 enterprises in all the regions of the country, three months after the first COVID-19 case was reported. The study was conducted at the beginning of the pandemic. According to the findings, although COVID-19 had a relatively mild effect on jobs and earnings, some workers, particularly people in the primary and non-tradable sectors, suffered significant losses. Younger people below the age of 35 and men were most affected. These findings are in contrast with government measures. The inadequacy of the measures could give rise to new inequalities.

In Cameroon, as in other countries worldwide, measures were implemented to protect households and businesses from the economic and social impacts of COVID-19. On 17 March 2020 and 9 April 2020, 20 measures were introduced. The measures can fit into four categories: travel and trade restrictions with foreign countries and within Cameroon, preventive measures for households, support for households to cope with the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and measures applicable to businesses.

Concerning specifically the support for households, they include the increase of pension benefits by 20% and family allowances (from FCFA 2,800 to 4,500) to protect the purchasing power of households. These last two measures on household incomes are out of sync with the study’s findings. The working hours of persons aged between 25 and 34 dropped, i.e., young people and not persons on pension. Given the above, arguably, the increase in family allowances and pension benefits is unrelated to COVID-19. The relevance of the increase in pensions can be challenged.

Similarly, although the tax measures adopted by the State alleviate the financial difficulties of companies, they do not specifically target job protection. These measures include total deductibility, in calculating corporate tax, donations and gifts made by companies for the fight against COVID-19, exemption from tourist tax in the hospitality sector for the end of the 2020 financial year, with effect from March, exemption from global tax and parking tax for taxis and motorbikes, and from the axle tax for the second quarter. No specific measures were taken to save jobs at risk in the primary and non-trading service sectors, which are the most affected by the pandemic.

The study shows that the government’s so-called response measures could create new inequalities due to their inadequacy with the needs of households and businesses. Thus, alongside inequalities in working conditions (Arnault et al., 2020), the study raises the red flag on a new form of inequality relating to the allocation of funds mobilised for the COVID-19 response.

For more details, read Viviane Ondoua Biwolé (2021), Impact of Covid-19 on Employment in Cameroon: Results of an empirical study, Monde en Développement, Vol. 4, No. 196, pp. 27 – 47.

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