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Not an election gimmick - PNP, JLP parliamentarians defend $75 million allocation for poverty alleviation

Published:Wednesday | June 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

Parliamentarians on both sides of the political divide have embraced the Government's decision to extend the Short-Term Poverty Intervention Project.

The 42 members of parliament on the Government benches, as well as the 21 from the Opposition, will each receive $1 million to assist the poor and needy in the constituencies that they represent.

Like first-time parliamentarian, Dr Dayton Campbell, veteran politician Karl Samuda declared that the project should not be seen in a negative light as it is intended to ease the burden brought by the austerity programme on the most vulnerable in the country.

"It's not an election gimmick because it started two years ago," said Campbell. "It is a legitimate way of assisting persons in need to move them from poverty to prosperity."

Said Samuda: "Not at all, this is the third time that it's being done."

Minister of Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier told the House of Representatives on Tuesday that the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration has pumped an additional $75 million into its Short-Term Poverty Intervention Project.

For his part, Campbell told The Gleaner he used a portion of the $1 million allocated to him last year to pay teachers for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) classes that are offered on Saturdays in his North West St Ann constituency.

legitimate opportunity

"Others were able to start small businesses such as farming, to include livestock," said Campbell. "I support it fully, once it is used to assist the needy and not the greedy and checks are put in place to ensure that a legitimate opportunity flows."

He said students in the GSAT classes did well.

"Other [beneficiaries] have an ongoing small business so, yes, it has benefited them in a meaningful way, and we did some entrepreneurial training, so this time, some of those persons will stand to benefit," he said.

This time around, Campbell said he would be assisting persons who got certified in his skills training programmes and others who did entrepreneurial training along with the farmers.

Samuda said that "pork barrel' attempts are prevented as beneficiaries are not allowed to receive in excess of $25,000, under the rules which are laid down.

"It's not something new and by all indications it is working," he said.

Added Samuda: "The project has got good support because people are suffering and the process circumvents the long wait at the Ministry of Social Security."

Unlike previous occasions, Samuda noted that the allocations would be paid in two tranches - one on July to September and the other in December.

Kellier told Parliament that the same methodology employed last year, would again be utilised.

"Each member of parliament will receive a letter that provides details of the project along with the prescribed forms for the submission of beneficiary's names and projects."