Finance and the Public Service Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, says the Government, in drafting the $715.6-billion Budget for the 2017/18 fiscal year, has taken major steps to safeguard the welfare of vulnerable citizens.
This, he said, is evident in the improved benefits under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) for which the Administration has increased the allocation by $3.68 billion.
He noted that the programme’s budget now stands at $11.7 billion, representing a 47 per cent increase. “By any standard of measurement, that’s a significant increase of our social safety net,” he said.
Minister Shaw was speaking at Monday’s (March 13) post-Budget media briefing at the Ministry’s offices in Kingston.
He noted that the PATH school-feeding programme is also being expanded by increasing the expenditure and the number of days on which lunch is provided to student beneficiaries.
Mr. Shaw indicated during his opening Budget presentation on March 9 that the allocation for the programme has increased by $1.75 billion to $4.75 billion.
He noted that the increase is the largest in recent years and will provide a hot meal for five days per week instead of three days, and improve the value of the lunches in terms of nutritional content.
Other improvements in the social safety net benefits include an additional $1.9 billion for the PATH Conditional Cash Grants, representing a 40 per cent increase.
This additional sum will enable the Labour and Social Security Ministry to increase grants to beneficiaries by 30 per cent, effective April 1.
PATH is the Government’s principal social safety net that targets the society’s most vulnerable citizens. These include children/students, zero to 19 years; the adult poor, including the disabled and the elderly; pregnant and lactating mothers; and the destitute.
It also comprises the Steps-to-Work initiative, which targets working-age members of PATH households for referral to relevant support services, to enable them to gain and retain employment.
Mr. Shaw, in his budget presentation, indicated that the Government will review the programme’s efficiency and effectiveness during the 2017/18 fiscal year; initiate an evaluation of households’ ability to exit PATH; and renew the impact of the programme on improving school attendance.
Article by: Douglass McIntosh
Photo from: www.jis.gov.jm