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New strategy to address needs of most vulnerable

Saturday, July 19, 2014    

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GOVERNMENT'S efforts to effectively address the needs of the country's most vulnerable citizens have been boosted through the newly created Social Protection Strategy.

The strategy, which is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, aims to strengthen the State's existing social protection framework by streamlining the provision and allocation of social resources and other interventions by the Government.

It was formally launched Wednesday by Finance and Planning Minister Dr Peter Phillips during a ceremony at the Planning Institute of Jamaica's (PIOJ) New Kingston offices.

The strategy involves collaboration with private, civic, and non-governmental organisations and stakeholders. This partnership approach is expected to effectively address the risks that create and foster poverty and vulnerability among the most marginalised citizens and their families.

Development of this comprehensive strategy was spearheaded by the PIOJ, with resources provided through the World Bank-funded Government of Jamaica Social Protection Project, undertaken between 2008 and 2013. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will be responsible for its administration.

Dr Phillips, in welcoming the document, commended the Labour and Social Security Ministry, World Bank, and PIOJ for collaborating on the endeavour.

"It is path breaking, in many respects. It provides a framework, which will guide policy for many years into the future. But I think, equally important, it highlights the pioneering potential and qualities of our own experts in the field (of social protection) here at the PIOJ, and in the Ministry of Labour," he stated.

This, the minister said, is evident in the international interest in the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), the Government's conditional cash transfer programme, which delivers benefits to the society's most needy and vulnerable.

He contended that this interest demonstrates that Jamaica is a world leader in the preparation of social protection strategies.

"It's very important that we take note of this, because, too often, the public discourse predisposes us to think that we cannot solve our own problems effectively, and we cannot be world leaders in matters of policy-making and intellectual endeavours, generally. We need to recognize that among our public servants, (and) among our academics, we have world class achievers," Dr Phillips added.

In his remarks, Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier expressed gratitude for the stakeholder input in the development of the strategy.

He noted that if properly structured, "social protection strategies can impact key national outcomes, ensuring the inclusion of all groups in development...as a means of combating inequality, poverty, and vulnerability... in the society."

Director General of the PIOJ, Colin Bullock, also hailed the wide stakeholder involvement, noting that this would continue to be imperative. "The PIOJ will continue to coordinate the efforts at integration and collaboration so that synergies can be embraced, gaps identified and addressed, and policy decisions objectively informed," he said.

For her part, acting World Bank representative in Jamaica, Kathy Lalazarian, said the institution is "truly impressed" with the Government's efforts to ensure that a comprehensive and cohesive programme of social protection is developed and executed, "as a matter of policy."

She contended that the Social Protection Strategy "presents the principles that guide the design and implementation of actions to support aspects of social assistance, social security, and labour market policies".

— JIS

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