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Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Colin Bullock has said that Jamaica was meeting some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which 189 countries of the United Nations have committed to achieving by 2015.
Mr. Bullock, who was addressing the annual general meeting of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) held on October 5 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, noted that absolute poverty in Jamaica declined in 2003 based on international indicators, and also declined in 2004 as evidenced by the Survey of Living Conditions.
“Compared to other medium development countries (as assessed by the United Nations Development Report), Jamaica has a much lower percentage of its population living below the poverty line whether measured at US$1 per day, US$2 per day, or the national poverty line,” he stated.
Last year, approximately 13.3 per cent of Jamaicans were assessed to be living below US$2 per day. Mr. Bullock hailed JSIF for its work to eradicate poverty. He noted that as an instrument of poverty alleviation in Jamaica, JSIF “predated these millennium developments by four years as the initiative was already in place in Jamaica.”
While JSIF was formally established in 1996 with the mandate of mobilising resources for social service projects in poor communities, the actual declaration of the MDGs was made by the United Nations in 2000. These goals include eliminating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education; improving maternal health; ensuring environmental sustainability; reducing infant and child mortality; and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. In terms of infant and child mortality, Mr. Bullock said the rates have trended downwards, while immunisation has increased. “These rates compare favourably with the international peer group but further progress is required,” he emphasised.
Progress, he added, was also needed in halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.Meanwhile, the United Nations, in its latest Development Report, has said that Jamaica’s human development index (HDI) had risen steadily since 1975. The HDI embraces such issues as life expectancy, adult literacy, enrolment ratio in school, gross domestic product and per capita income. Mr. Bullock said that Jamaica’s income distribution, which is often a matter of public concern, was actually more equitable than 28 of the 53 medium development countries. “So we are saying our income distribution is more equitable than some of the middle income countries, and it actually more equitable than some of the high human development countries, including the United States, Singapore and Argentina,” he added.
He noted however, when Jamaica’s relatively low per capita income was factored alongside those of the high human development countries, the island’s poor would then be considered poorer than those of the developed nations.
Mr. Bullock pointed out that within the English-speaking Caribbean, Jamaica had fared better in its reports of incidents of infant mortality and human development than other medium development countries in the region.