Jamaica government considers social safety net

KINGSTON, Jamaica, December 29, 2008 – The Jamaica government is contemplating a social safety net programme to assist the most vulnerable Jamaicans amidst the global economic crisis.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Pearnel Charles said that a part of the safety net programme, which will go hand in hand with the stimulus package announced two weeks ago by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, would be a restructuring of the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).

“The social safety net programme has been contemplated for a long time, but not just by this administration. What we are looking at is to increase the PATH programme and increase the amount of money that people who are really in poverty are getting,” he explained.

“We are talking to partners overseas to get some money, because we have to restructure and reorganise, to satisfy as many persons who are suffering as possible.”

Mr Charles said that since the administration took office, they have removed some of the qualifications that are outlined for persons to get assistance, through the PATH programme.

“When we took over, there were 38,000 Jamaicans who were rejected, because they did not meet the qualifications for being poor and those are terms that we totally disagree with. So, we have removed those qualifications and the 38,000 persons who were not qualified under the previous government for PATH, those persons are now qualified,” he informed.

“The Planning Institute of Jamaica has identified an additional 115,000 persons who satisfy the qualifications and the Prime Minister has ordered that these persons should be added to the PATH programme and we are examining this,” the Labour and Social Security Minister added.

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s stimulus package, Mr Charles described it as a golden plan for the beginning of a new era, especially for small businesses.

Mr Golding’s plan includes tax cuts, duty exemptions, and millions of dollars in loans to help the economy’s vulnerable sectors through the financial crisis. Tourism, small business and manufacturing sectors were given specific relief, but a number of other measures are to be implemented to provide general relief and stimulus throughout the economy.

The Cabinet has given approval for amendments to the relevant legislation to give effect to those measures.