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While there are some teething pains still to be worked out with the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), there can be no question that the focus is right and should lead to more coordinated response to the need for assistance by the most deprived in the society, Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, has said.
During his budget presentation before the House of Parliament last week, Dr. Davies said the programme, which, when fully operational, could alleviate poverty amongst nearly 10 per cent of the population, was an “undeniably major advance in the social welfare programmes”. PATH, which was implemented in February, 2002 by the government of Jamaica, was developed with the assistance of the World Bank and the Inter American Development Bank. Following this multilateral over the initial four-year period, Dr. Davies said, the government would assume full responsibility for financing the programme.
Some $720.6 million was allocated in the estimates of expenditure recently tabled before the House of Representatives, to fund the Programme, which is aimed at assisting approximately 240,000 persons annually from the country’s poorest groups. This includes, 33,000 elderly poor; 19,000 disabled persons; and 5,000 indigent persons;168,000 children aged zero to 17 years; and 11,000 pregnant and lactating women.
The project, which is aimed at supporting Government’s effort to transform the Social Safety Net (SSN) into a more efficient system of social assistance for the poor and vulnerable, seeks to provide better and more cost effective assistance to the extreme poor, and strengthen the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Ministry to operate a streamlined and efficient programme.
PATH beneficiaries are required to play their part in sustaining the programme and as such, a number of community meetings have been held across the island to inform beneficiaries about the importance of adhering to the rules of the programme, in order to keep receiving assistance. In addition to ensuring that their children are registered for assistance, and maintain regular school attendance, beneficiaries are required to attend clinics regularly. Each registered family member now receives $300 per month, and this figure is expected to increase incrementally to a maximum of $500 per person, by 2005. Registered children of beneficiaries are exempt from cost sharing expenses in Government-run schools.
Launched last year, PATH is part of a series of policy initiatives introduced by Government to break the cycle of poverty and empower the most vulnerable in the society. While the programme assists beneficiaries with some basic expenses it is also directed at ensuring that families were healthy and that children are provided with sound education.