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Food and health, priorities of Hondurans who will receive Christmas bonus

Tegucigalpa, Dec 8 (EFE) .- The payment of the thirteenth month of salary, known in Honduras as aguinaldo, many will allocate it to meet urgent needs derived from the covid-19 pandemic and the tropical storms Iota and Eta, or pay accumulated debts during the health emergency that the country has been experiencing since March. 2020 has been an “atypical” year and the coronavirus pandemic has caused an economic crisis in the country and the world, the general secretary of the Independent Federation of Honduran Workers (FITH), José Luis Baquedano, told Efe. The crisis has worsened due to the extensive damage to infrastructure and assets of some companies left by tropical storms Eta and Iota. Many employees have had their pay reduced because company revenues have dropped due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, while others have been temporarily suspended or fired. In other cases, Efe has known of private sector employees who will receive the Christmas bonus in three parts, while the Government has assured that it will pay the thirteenth month of salary before December 15 to public workers, despite the economic difficulties and low revenue collection. Honduras’ revenue from tax collection at the end of 2020 will fall by around 30,700 million lempiras (about 1,233 million dollars), that is, they will go from 109,721 million lempiras (4,510 million dollars) projected at the beginning of the year to 79,000 million (3,247 million dollars), according to official figures. AGUINALDO IS AN OBLIGATION Despite the difficult economic situation, Baquedano pointed out that the payment of the Christmas bonus is “an obligation”, so employers must “make a superhuman effort to be in solidarity with the workers” in times of crisis. The workers need the payment of the Christmas bonus, because most are going through an “economic crisis” and, furthermore, they are the ones who “produce goods, services and generate wealth that they give into private hands,” he emphasized. “Today more than ever we expect that awareness (from businessmen) because it is a law and it must be complied with, they will have to look for some alternatives, if they have an economic crisis, talk to the banks so that they can give them facilities in terms of loans,” Baquedano explained. Many companies, mainly micro, small and medium-sized ones, have been affected for nine months by the pandemic, which has also exacerbated poverty in Honduras, where before the coronavirus it affected more than 60% of the 9.5 million people , and unemployment has skyrocketed. According to labor organizations, before the pandemic in Honduras there were 1.6 million unemployed, a figure that increased to around 4 million people, while another two million work informally. FOOD AND HEALTH, PRIORITIES OF HONDURAN WHO WILL RECEIVE AGUINALDO This year, compared to previous years, workers will use the Christmas bonus to buy food, biosafety equipment to protect themselves against the pandemic and a smartphone so that their children can receive classes at home due to the closure of educational centers due to the spread of covid-19, he added. Business leaders and independent economists advise Hondurans to save money this season, something that Baquedano sees as “difficult” due to the high cost of the basic food basket and public services. He also said that he hopes that workers who have the capacity to pay debts will do so, since many are “over-indebted, suffocated, in domestic calamity.” Previous years, the payment of bonuses to public employees and the private sector was the strongest pull for Christmas sales, but this year commercial activity and the Christmas atmosphere have diminished due to covid-19 and storms Eta and Iota . CLOSING THE ECONOMY AGAIN WOULD BE A WRONG DECISION According to the Central Bank of Honduras, economic activity contracted at a rate of 9.5% between January and September 2020 due to the effects of Covid-19 and the restriction measures applied by the authorities to stop the spread of the virus, which already leaves 2,950 dead and 111,707 infections in the Central American nation. The Honduran authorities are analyzing the possibility of resuming partial or total confinement in Honduras in the face of an increase in positive cases of covid-19, which has begun to increase hospital capacity in the main cities of the country. The Minister of the Presidency, Ebal Díaz, said the day before that the only way to reduce the number of infections is “the confinement or closure of economic activities and, therefore, we are reviewing all these issues and we are calling the Multisectoral Table to address the issue “. For the manager of Sustainable Companies of the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (Cohep), Gabriel Molina, closing the economy again would be a wrong decision and more jobs would be lost. “The idea is that we can take advantage of Christmas to sustain the jobs that are alive and try to recover those that have been lost,” Molina told reporters. He stressed the importance of all sectors complying “fully” with the mandatory use of a mask, physical distancing and frequent hand washing to avoid the spread of the virus. Molina warned that closing the economy this season will cause the closure of businesses that have managed to survive the pandemic and the damage of storms Eta and Iota, mainly in the west and north of the country, where thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes, so they remain in temporary shelters or makeshift tents. (c) EFE Agency

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