PRIME Minister Andrew Holness is calling on policymakers across the world to implement innovative solutions to support sustainable development and eradicate poverty.
Holness, who also highlighted the need to bridge financing gaps, made the call particularly in relation to the devastating impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable.
He was speaking at a United Nations (UN) High Level virtual event entitled, “Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Eradication and a Sustainable Recovery”, on Tuesday.
“The pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies and inequalities in our existing economic and social systems. It has brought into sharp focus the fundamental value of human life and human potential. As we seek to build forward stronger and better, let us seek the opportunity to invest in our most precious asset, our human capital,” he implored.
The prime minister further stressed that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the social and economic fabric of countries, with millions of jobs lost around the world, resulting in unprecedented pressure on social protection systems.
“In developing countries in particular, the pandemic has exposed the risks related to the informal economy and the associated lack of social protection. As we chart a new course towards economic recovery, we must lay the foundations for a more resilient labour market and a more equal world.
“We must invest in upskilling and reskilling our workers for the jobs of the future to better prepare for the disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which the pandemic has only served to accelerate,” he said.
Holness suggested that strengthening and enabling countries' social protection systems to be responsive and agile during crises such as COVID-19 will be key to accelerating the ending of poverty and vulnerabilities.
“The pandemic has…exposed the stark inequalities and the significant gaps in social protection systems. With the onslaught of the pandemic, many low- and middle-income counties have struggled to mount a social protection and stimulus response of the scope and scale required to meet the needs,” Holness lamented.
He said, too, that highly indebted middle-income countries like Jamaica have had to “apply an unpredicted number of social protection and job policy interventions to alleviate the effects of the crisis on our population while being severely constrained by our fiscal challenges”.
The prime minister pointed out, however, that despite these constraints, within two weeks of the first case of COVID-19 in Jamaica, the Government instituted the largest social support programme for the vulnerable in Jamaica's history. It included the elderly and disabled, workers and businesses to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
Further, in July 2021, the Administration also implemented the new social pension programme for seniors, 75 years and older, who were not in receipt of a pension.
“These were necessary measures to mitigate the destabilising socio-economic effects of the crisis on our population,” he said.
Several heads of State, multi-world leading agency heads and stakeholders took part in the high-level meeting which was chaired by secretary general of the UN António Guterres.
The event is in keeping with the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda — ensuring no one is left behind especially in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.