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PATH to get US$40-m boost

Saturday, January 25, 2014 | 12:56 PM    

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) - The World Bank has approved US$40 million in additional funding to strengthen Jamaica’s largest safety net programme, already reaching more than 400,000 vulnerable people.

The Washington-based financial institution said that the funding would enhance the effectiveness of the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) and expand its reach to more than half a million poor Jamaicans.

Similar to other successful Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) in Colombia and Mexico, the World Bank said a recent evaluation found that PATH has increased school attendance and improved vaccination rate among the most vulnerable population.

“The additional funding will not only help increase the reach of the programme, but also ensure a more effective delivery of social assistance to those most in need,” said Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank country director for the Caribbean.

“What is innovative about this social protection package is that it focuses on helping families graduate from the CCT programme by increasing their skills and improving their employability,” she added.

Dunstan Bryan, project director at Jamaica’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security, said the new support from the World Bank would “enable the government to build resilience, equity and promote active labour market interventions.

“The government of Jamaica continues to implement the reforms of Social Protection Systems to alleviate poverty,” he said.

The World Bank said the young and the elderly in rural areas are among the poorest in Jamaica.

It said while poor children are typically enrolled in school, their attendance can be “erratic”.

The World Bank said lack of money often prevents poor families from sending their children to school and accessing health care.

It said growing unemployment was the other “scourge” that affects more than 50 per cent of young people, including 38 per cent of young women.

To help tackle unemployment among PATH beneficiaries, the World Bank said a complementary scheme, “Steps to Work” helps young people to find a job through job readiness, skills and entrepreneurial trainings.

Through the additional funding, the World Bank said more than one in five Jamaicans, including nearly two thirds of the poorest children, will benefit from PATH’s conditional cash transfer programme by 2017.

It also said 1,000 young people would graduate from the job readiness and skill training; and 80 per cent of families enrolled in the programme will receive complementary services, such as entrepreneurship and skills trainings, to help them become self-reliant.

The World Bank said the Jamaica experience already inspired other CCT programmes in the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, and St Lucia.

It said CCTs have become a "vital part” of poverty reduction strategies in many countries, particularly in Latin America.

The bank said this additional financing is aligned with the forthcoming World Bank Country Partnership strategy for Jamaica.

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