THE NEXT 50 YEARS -Break the cycle of POVERTY
Jamaica continues to celebrate 50 years of Independence. We have achieved a lot. However, there is much work left to be done if we are to progress as a country. We must begin to tackle Jamaica's chronic problems in a targeted and sustained way to make this country a better place to live, work and grow families. The Next 50 Years, a special Gleaner series, will spotlight some of the challenges we must fix in the coming years. We want to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and join the debate.
JAMAICA'S REALITY over the last 50 years highlights the demands for sustained initiatives to achieve the requisite levels of poverty reduction if it is to attain sustainable development for its people.
In 1962, there were 1,622,800 persons living in Jamaica. The economic growth rate was 3.36 per cent per annum, life expectancy was 64 years, the infant mortality rate was 48.1 per 1,000, and there were 66 reported murders annually.
Fifty years later, life expectancy at birth is 74 years, infant mortality rates have improved to 20 per 1,000, access to safe water is now enjoyed by 81 per cent of Jamaican households, and almost 100 per cent of all households have access to sanitary facilities.
The most recent available data on poverty estimates that 17.6 per cent of Jamaicans lived in poverty in 2010. Inequality has remained the norm and the richest 10 per cent of the population consume almost 10 times more than the poorest 10 per cent.
In the absence of interventions, sustainable development will not be attained over the next 50 years.
There is an urgent need for improvement in the quality of education at non-traditional schools. Curricula must be improved by the introduction of social and economic entrepreneurship in schools.
Investment in early-childhood education will guide the way forward. Illiteracy woes bedevilling some at all levels of the education system need to be addressed.
Jamaican children require focused attention as many face high levels of abuse, neglect, various forms of exploitation and violence.
Social protection programmes such as PATH, with wider coverage, must be funded and managed, consistent with human dignity. Recipients should be encouraged to ease from welfare into productive employment.
The poor must expect and demand better. This includes responsible family planning and functioning.