Approximately $94 billion has been reserved in the budget for social safety net programmes, the provision of housing, jobs and training, and initiatives to assist vulnerable communities.
This was disclosed by Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips,as he opened the 2013/14 Budget Debate on Friday, April 18, in the House of Representatives under the theme ‘Restoring Hope – Expanding Opportunity’.
Over $6 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for social welfare programmes. This reflects an increase of approximately $562 million over the previous budget of $5.7 billion.
The Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education(PATH) beneficiaries will receive a 15 per cent increase in payment, which will commence in August 2013. Another 15 per cent will be paid in August of 2014, to bring the total increase to the beneficiaries to 30 per cent by the end of financial year 2014/15.
Funds have also been provided to support the introduction of a pilot programme to provide bus fares for PATH students and to introduce bursaries to tertiary level students.
In addition, funds have been set aside to implement a social housing project to deliver 120 housing solutions, provide skills training and remedial education to 525 farmers, 120 low literacy clients and 500 youths; and to provide 1,000 entrepreneurships grants under the welfare to work programme, among other initiatives.
Also, more than $800 million has been allocated for poor relief services up from the $747 million provided in the financial year 2012/13, with approximately $780 million going to the parish councils to assist with the administration, operations and maintenance of infirmaries, as well as the provision of financial assistance to the registered poor.
The School Feeding Programme in the Ministry of Education has been allocated a total of $3.944 billion, an increase of $373 million or 10 per cent over the $3.571 billion provided in the previous year.
The subsidy to basic school children has moved from $1.2 billion to $1.32 billion, the first increase in this grant since 2009/2010, and youth and children at risk programmes have been allocated $2.6 billion, up $251million from the $2.4 billion provided in financial year 2012/2013.
Grants totaling $1.24 billion, up from the $1.1 billion provided in 2012/2013 budget, have been provided to the children’s homes, places of safety and foster care through the Child Development Agency (CDA).
Meanwhile, over $1 billion has been allocated to the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) in the Ministry of National Security, to continue the intervention activities in communities plagued by crime and violence.
Activities under the programme will include: summer employment for 390 persons, on-the-job training for 470 persons, provision of tuition support for 900 students, among other initiatives.
The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has been allocated $1.852 billion to enable the agency to continue ongoing work and provide resources to assist vulnerable communities in improving their social, economic and physical infrastructure.
“This government has an ironclad commitment to the more vulnerable in the society even in the face of budgetary stringency,” Mr. Phillips stated.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter