JIS News

Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Country Economist in Jamaica, Silvano Tjong Ahin, is warning of the serious challenges which the country could face, due to the global spike in food and fuel prices.
He said that at the global level, there was clear consensus among developing countries like Jamaica that high prices was a major threat to ongoing efforts at reducing poverty. Further, in Jamaica’s case, price hikes can result in a “reversal of the important gains made in (poverty reduction) over the years.”
Speaking at the launch of the Poverty Monitoring and Social Policy Analysis Programme’s (PMSPA) islandwide poverty maps and research publication: ‘Issues of Critical Social Concern: Some Investigations’ at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) on Friday (July 25), Mr. Ahin said recent analytical work conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the IDB showed that Jamaica is one of the countries “most adversely affected by the [increasing] price(s) in food and fuel.”
“Our (IDB) calculations suggest that the combined effect of food and fuel price increases could significantly undermine Jamaica’s foreign reserve position, resulting in import cover of barely one month,” Mr. Ahin stated.
He said that the IDB research also suggested that in cases where the poorest groups of individuals were already spending between 60 and 70 per cent of their household income on food, the price spikes would increase the percentage of the population living below the poverty line from approximately 14.3 per cent to 26.2 per cent.
The IDB official noted that it was now an acknowledged best practice for social development agencies to have the necessary infrastructure in place that would facilitate the designing of clinical social policy interventions at the community level.
Alluding to the research publications, poverty maps, and the work of the PMSPA, funded through an IDB US$200,000 technical cooperation grant agreement, Mr. Ahin said that the project’s development objective was to increase the level of quantitative data analysis in the formulation of social policies that will contribute effectively to poverty reduction.
He pointed out that the launch of the documents is being held at an important and critical juncture in Jamaica’s “determined efforts” to “arrest the cycle of poverty and bring the full potential of the poor into the mainstream of productive activities.”
“For us (IDB), this goes to the very heart of the Bank’s two overarching goals of supporting sustainable growth, and reducing poverty in member countries. The project also aligns with one of the strategic pillars of the country’s strategies that we are pursuing here in Jamaica. that of improving the efficiency of public expenditure,” Mr. Ahin informed.
He stressed that within the context of Jamaica’s “limited fiscal space,” a major objective of the poverty reduction initiative, must be ensuring that public expenditure on subsidies and other related programmes were well targeted and effectively managed.
“Indeed, it is now recognized best practice for social development agencies to have the infrastructure in place that will allow for the design of clinical social policy interventions at the level of individual communities. It is this type of micro-level analysis that could be deployed in the design of multi-dimensional interventions that are required to ensure that the scourge of poverty is addressed at both the level of income, and access to basic needs,” the IDB executive stated.
The PMSPA is one of two projects implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica since the 1990s, aimed at building the capacity of public sector agencies to conduct the requisite research and analysis to drive evidence-based policy development. Its long term goal is to strengthen the capacity of technical staff at the PIOJ and relevant line ministries and agencies, to perform social data analysis. Additionally, it is intended to strengthen the PIOJ’s leadership and coordination position as a catalyst for social policy research.
The PMSPA publication comprises four researched papers, which explore issues spanning poverty measurement, underutilization in primary and all age schools, the PATH programme, and its impact on educational attainment and contract work.
The poverty maps provide demographics of the areas of Jamaica having the highest concentration of individuals categorized as living below the poverty line, numbering upwards of 8000.
Mr. Ahin said the social economic maps of the communities constitute a critical component of the information base required to ensure that public expenditure on subsidies and poverty interventions achieve the maximum impact.