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The activities of the Government’s main social protection initiative, the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) have been strengthened with an injection of $2.77 billion (US$30 million) from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The loan support falls under the Integrated Social Protection and Labour Programme, which seeks to preserve gains in poverty reduction and reduce vulnerability of the poor during a time of economic downturn.

At the signing of the agreement today (December 13), at the Ministry of Finance and Planning’s National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston, portfolio Minister, Hon.

Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, informed that the funds, which were approved by the IDB Board this week, will be disbursed over four years with a repayment period of 25 years.

He noted that under the agreement, there is no requirement for counterpart financing from the Government, adding that the facility accommodates retroactive financing of expenses up to a maximum of US$6 million, which is 20 per cent of the proposed loan amount, for a period not exceeding 18 months prior to the date of approval.

He thanked the agency for its support, noting that the agreement “reflects their confidence in our overall economic programme and it expresses also, their support for the principle of social protection as an important part of any economic development initiative”.

For his part, Operations Senior Specialist, Country Department – Jamaica, IDB, Harold Arzu, said the institution was “working arduously to disburse (the funds) by Monday (December 17)”.

“The IDB is proud to support the Government of Jamaica in its effort to improve human capital and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of key social protection programmes,” he said.

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said the assistance will go a far way in enhancing the Ministry’s mandate to create an infrastructure to better support the working population and provide adequate and appropriate social protection support for the most vulnerable within the society.

“Through the resources that will be provided by this loan, the Ministry will be able to enhance the inclusivity of its labour policy and social assistance programme so as to ensure participation of persons with disabilities, the elderly and other key stakeholders as we seek to create a comprehensive social protection system for all Jamaicans,” he said.

He informed that of the total loan amount, approximately $1.8 billion (US$20 million) will be used to provide benefits to PATH beneficiaries.

The specific objectives of the Integrated Social Protection and Labour Programme are to: strengthen the conditional cash transfer for PATH through modified health co-responsibilities and the introduction of parenting education for households with children two to six years old; introduction of new technologies for payment, social marketing and information management; and support for an early stimulation centre for PATH children with disabilities.

The programme also seeks to improve labour outcomes of social protection beneficiaries through development of links between social assistance and labour markets, improvements in national employment services, and the establishment of an on-the-job training pilot for PATH beneficiaries.

Modernising the School Feeding Programme (SFP), through development and implementation of a school feeding policy and SFP Management Information System, and strengthening of administrative systems for the SFP, is another key objective of the initiative.