Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Government has protected the poor

Published:Wednesday | August 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Last Sunday, while delivering an address to Comrades at the annual constituency conference for Central St Mary at the St Mary High School in Highgate, it was reported that Dr Peter Phillips, the finance minister, told the crowd that the Government "has done all it can do to protect the poor and the vulnerable in the society".

This statement, as reported, was not what he said and should not have been interpreted that the Government has exhausted all its efforts in protecting the vulnerable. Actually, the direct quote from his presentation is as follows: "... With all the long-term problems that the country has faced, and we have been dealing with, we have sought on every step of the way to ensure that the most vulnerable is protected to the best of our ability as a country".

It is well established that under the economic reform programme, the Government has implemented a social-spending floor to ensure that overall spending on critical programmes in health, education, and social security is maintained.

In fact, the Government continues to invest in programmes aimed at protecting the vulnerable through:

- The Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), which has benefited from increased payouts amounting to 30 per cent since 2012, with the elderly receiving a 67 per cent increase. Other initiatives include the establishment of the transport allowance under PATH to ensure that children are able to attend school.

- The Government also strengthened the School Feeding Programme over the last two years, moving the budget from J$3.5 billion in 2013 to J$4.4 billion in 2015-2016.

- In addition, the Government has instituted a breakfast programme at the early-childhood level, which will see approximately 70 per cent of these children receiving free breakfast.

- The Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP) and the National Health Fund also provide subsidised benefits to many Jamaicans.

Dr Phillips also highlighted, during his presentation, the efforts of the Government to adjust the minimum wage, twice between September 2012 and January 2014 and has made adjustments to the income tax threshold, which effectively benefits a wide cross section of working-class Jamaicans.

The Government also continues to fund programmes such as JEEP, which has provided employment for more than 50,000 Jamaicans at a cost of approximately J$8 billion.

The Government, through the implementation of the ERP, has prioritised creating an environment for improved growth and job creation and continues to make the necessary investments in programmes to ensure social stability and inclusiveness.

DONOVAN NELSON

Aide to Finance Minister Peter Phillips