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The Government will be increasing provisions under the social safety net to provide a cushion for Jamaicans as the country grapples with the current world financial crisis.
“The global economic crisis only reinforces our commitment to ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our society are protected,” said Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw as he opened the 2009/10 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on April 23.
For the fiscal year, the Government intends to significantly expand the School-Feeding Programme, a measure Mr. Shaw said, is to ensure adequate nutrition of the nation’s children.
He noted that allocation to education has been increased to 13 per cent of the national budget, aiming for a target of 15 per cent.
Regarding the free health care policy, Minister Shaw said that National Health Fund (NHF) will be assisting this effort, by providing additional resources to deal with overcrowding in hospitals and making more pharmaceuticals available to patients.
The Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) will be expanded this year to include some 120,000 more Jamaicans “who are deemed to be below the poverty line.”
With regards to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Mr. Shaw said it has assisted a wide range of projects across the island, such as the rehabilitation of houses for indigents, road repairs, agricultural projects, fixing of basic schools and community centres, back-to-school assistance, and sports and healthy lifestyle projects.
“These programmes, combined with the JSIF (Jamaica Social Investment Fund) and other social programmes, which cost the Government well over $11 billion, and represent a meaningful effort on the part of this Government to strengthen the social safety net,” he said.
Speaking on agriculture and national security, the Minister said the Government continues to demonstrate its commitment to the productive sector by providing a budgetary allocation of $6.9 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
With regards to security, repair work was carried out on more than 50 police stations in the last fiscal year, while construction will begin this year on the public morgue along with the refurbishing of a number of police stations, as well as rehabilitation of the Police Training Academy at Twickenham Park in St. Catherine.
Additionally, the work of the police force was aided by the provision of 150 of the 400 vehicles promised during the last fiscal year. The complete fleet is estimated at US$83million.

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