Jamaica says social protection is a fundamental pillar in efforts to eradicate poverty

Commission on Social development

NAR: Jamaica is of the view that the current emphasis by the Commission on Social development on the emerging issue of social protection is fitting. So says Jamaica’s Director of Social security Denzil Thorpe.
He told the commission that is especially so since social protection is a fundamental pillar in any country’s efforts towards implementing poverty eradication strategies and the protection and development of special groups.

THORPE: The global financial and economic crisis has brought into sharp focus the important role that such measures play in improving and preserving the quality of life of our citizens. The challenges faced in recent times have proven that effective social protection systems can and do serve as cushions for our citizens against the impact of not only financial and economic shocks, but other major catastrophes such as natural disasters. For Jamaica, the main tenets of the Social Protection system are similar to those that exist in most other countries. That is: Social Insurance where our National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is a mandatory contribution-funded social insurance system which provides benefits to workers upon retirement, sickness on the job, disability, maternity (for domestic workers only) or death of the contributor or his/her spouse. Social Assistance: The Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) is a conditional cash transfer system which seeks to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by stimulating behaviour change among beneficiaries focussed on school attendance and accessing of basic health services.

NAR: Mr. Thorpe noted that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security monitors employers to ensure compliance with labour laws, occupational safety and health best practices and the decent work agenda. The Ministry also plays a major role in resolving employment disputes and is responsible for setting and monitoring the National Minimum Wage. He said that in the past, the payment mechanisms of NIS and PATH have been used to provide additional benefits to beneficiaries following the devastating effects of hurricanes that have caused major damage to Jamaica.

THORPE: Also, as a part of the response to the global financial crisis, there were timely adjustments to the regular benefit rates for NIS and PATH beneficiaries as well as the National Minimum Wage. Additionally, the scope of PATH was recently adjusted to include a further ten thousand older persons and persons with disabilities who may have been adversely affected by the economic crisis. Also with the ageing of our population, there is a major reform of the NIS, as well as private pension systems to ensure their viability and sustainability, and that coverage and participation is extended to more persons. These measures, along with the policies for free basic health care and free education up to the secondary level, among others, go a far way in doing exactly what social protection systems are supposed to. That is, to protect all our citizens, with special emphasis on the most vulnerable, including the youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups.

NAR: Thorpe pointed out that d Jamaica shares the view that poverty eradication strategies are interlinked with the challenges posed by social phenomena in other development sectors.

THORPE: The dramatic increase in incidences of non-communicable diseases, particularly, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases clearly demonstrates this connection. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that “in addition to their enormously negative impact on the health of a population, non-communicable diseases are now emerging globally as a serious macroeconomic and developmental challenge because of the loss of productivity, rapidly rising health-care costs and the links with poverty”. As we pursue our respective mandates on the social development agenda, it is imperative that we take into consideration the impact that these non-communicable diseases can have on our efforts to eradicate poverty and to achieve the other Millennium Development Goals…. As we have indicated in the past, these principles have been intricately intertwined in our own ambitious plan to achieve developed country status by the year 2030. We are convinced, that despite the challenges we face as a country, and despite the economic crisis that has affected all of us globally – if we continue to work together as countries functioning as one United Nation in support of each other, we will all be able to meet the targets we set individually for the development of our countries and our people.

NAR: The Commission concluded the fourth day of its session whose focus is poverty eradication and in which Member States hoped to exchange best practices and shape new approaches that would filter down to the 900 million people whose lives would still be mired in extreme poverty in 2015, even if the first Millennium Development Goal was realized in that target year.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 5’14″

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