Failure not an option for the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force

Editorial

Failure not an option for the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force

Friday, October 09, 2020

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The tendency for governments to name committees and task forces to deal with any and every problem under the sun understandably breathes cynicism among the populace each time a new one is named.

Too often these committees are just a bunch of loyalists and supporters of the ruling party, who seem to relish getting their names on letterheads and burnishing their résumés without a single achievement to show for their effort and time.

That, of course, is unfortunate, because some problems can be quite intractable and their long-term resolution warrants a gathering of the minds and the pooling of resources that can't be found in any one place or entity.

We are making this point because we believe that Jamaica needs the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, set up in April this year, to succeed exceptionally, given the exponential changes that the pandemic has wrought and the deep challenges we will face going forward.

Every Jamaican should see his/her future invested in its work and accomplishments. In other words, this is one of the most consequential committees and must not fall prey to the disingenuities of our past.

It is to be noted that the task force, in its just released report, proposes the implementation of several short- and medium-term social interventions to bolster initiatives administered by the Government to cushion the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on individuals and entities.

The clear need has been identified for the Government to maintain active collaboration with private sector stakeholders and non-governmental organisations to undertake several engagements over the short term.

These include:

• expanding the reach of safety nets through strengthened registration efforts;

• implementing the new social pension scheme announced by Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke during the 2020/21 budget debate;

• providing accessible training and certification to assist the redeployment of displaced employees; and

• accelerating strategies for building resilience among small producers and entrepreneurs.

We especially like the plan to develop a comprehensive database of all families — separate but acting together with the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) — through which State-sponsored social assistance can be administered to households in need during a crisis and facilitating the administering of benefits in a structured manner.

“Additionally, the task force has recommended the expansion of avenues of attachment for social security, particularly within the formal economy; completing the examination of contributory unemployment insurance within the context of social security reform; addressing the comprehensive inclusion of persons with disabilities and the elderly; and ensuring a system of national identification and social registries.”

The task force report correctly emphasised that the COVID-19 experience has underscored the critical role of social protection in all of its components — social assistance, social security, and labour market dynamics.

We are very confident that this committee, led by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, will receive the full support of the Government, the private sector, and, indeed, the entire country.


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