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Prime Minister's Remarks at the Launch of the National Social Safety Net Policy Framework and Development Partners Round Table Conference


Thursday, March 13, 2014 6:58 PM- St. George's, Grenada
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ST. GEORGE'S, GRENADA, March 13, 2014 - GIS:


Sisters and brothers…Good morning.

Thank you for joining us in this most important exercise here this morning. In my view, it is perhaps the most important duty we have so far undertaken in our time in Government.

In February 2013, the nation entrusted us with the responsibility of improving the lives of all our citizens. The nation placed in our hands the confidence to not leave anyone behind.

The nation spoke to us, and we listened. Today, results of that conversation are further manifested.

Today, in front of all Grenadians and our international friends and donors, this government is demonstrating that the life and livelihood of every citizen is of utmost importance. Today, we are showing that we are determined to take care of our own.

Since assuming Office, this administration pledged to work tirelessly in pursuit of a better life for all our citizens.

We pledged to ensure that food is on the table; that our people are clothed; that every child can have access to a decent education; that the voices of the abused and marginalized do not go unheard; that the jobless can find their way to a better life.

It is a commitment that we take seriously. And it is a commitment that we are determined to carry out.
Today is one step further in fulfilling that basic obligation.

In the quest to better the lives of our fellow citizens we continue to reach out to the rest of the nation, asking for partnership in ventures that, in the end, will have the effect of putting food on the table for those who now struggle to provide; that put money in the pockets of the families that have had to go without; to help create jobs—the only sustainable ways to lift people out of poverty.

The initiatives on which we have embarked in creating this Social Framework, and implementing training and employment activities must take into consideration cross-ministerial and multi-sectoral approaches. We cannot deal with these challenges in isolation.
Think about this for a minute:
When government is criticized for instituting the IMANI or De-bushing programmes, who suffers?

Without such initiatives, we are effectively leaving thousands of jobless, idle citizens out there, who will eventually be tempted to get involved in any number of illicit or negative activities. When this happens, we are all affected: economically and socially.

Many have said, for instance, that the De-bushing programme is nothing more than a glorified social safety net. My friends, in my view, any “safety net” is better than having no place to land when you fall.

Comprehensive Social development calls for public and private partnership; it calls for people and government to work together; it calls for ministries to jointly enact policies that aim to develop, rehabilitate and educate.

For every child that does not get the proper nutrition, he or she will have problems concentrating and performing well in school. Therefore, the Ministries of Health, Education and Youth development must work together.

Every time a young man out there abuses his partner out of his own frustration with not being able to provide for his family, the onus is on the ministries of Finance and Social Development, for example, to better that situation.

On more obvious levels, how can I as the Minister of Finance rest, knowing that our system is not equipped with enough trained counselors and caregivers to tackle the myriad of social issues that we see daily?

How can I not see that our economic future is intricately linked to our ability to properly educate our children, or to create employment for our young people?

It is bad enough to be shortsighted, but it is unforgiveable to be blind. Too much is at stake.

While we may not have ever cultivated a culture of taking a systemic approach to social problems, we cannot linger in implementing the policies and frameworks that will enhance our holistic social development. The problems are varied, they are urgent, and they threaten the very fabric of our societies. Our economic future is indelibly connected to our ability to effectively address and reverse many of the social ills that we face.

We understand that the challenges can seem varied and insurmountable. We know that every night, there are children that go to bed hungry. We hear the cry of the young mother, who is left to fend for herself with young children.

We do not turn away from our responsibility to our elderly citizens who can no longer take care of themselves.
They have made their contribution to society, and it is now our turn to show our appreciation.

Brothers and sisters, this is why Government has embarked on partnerships that are designed to provide some form of security for our most vulnerable and marginalized.
Our programmes and projects aim to provide assistance to families and children to increase their chances of accessing a proper education. The Support for Education Empowerment and Development (SEED) programme, for example, is an extensive one which provides support in a number of need-based areas.

Other safety net programmes include the School Feeding programme; the Geriatric Caregivers’ and Roving Caregivers’ programmes for children.

We also continue to provide, extend and upgrade our child protection services and facilities, as well as homes and shelters for the homeless, abused and needy persons in our communities.

With the implementation of this strategy, Government is committing to early intervention instead of taking reactive approaches.

The Social policy is an investment in the future of Grenada. There are children with tremendous capacity to excel but because of socioeconomic status, or lack of proper care are unable to even attend school; yet learn.

The Social Framework also ensures that Grenada is honoring its commitment to the rights of our people, for which we have signed up under the UNCRC, and other such conventions.

The Framework is holding Government accountable to the social development of the country, as we recognize that failure to put such strategies in place impacts us significantly in the future.

We are aware that these programmes have some challenges, and we are working everyday to address those.

However, what we are most assured of is that these programmes are absolutely necessary in the provision of services designed to redress social setbacks.

Note my choice of words, ladies and gentlemen: Setbacks.

I say this because these programmes are not designed to be the ultimate stop for the many who will access them. Not only are we intent on addressing the current needs of our most defenseless, but we are also determined to improve their position in life by creating opportunities for them that render them less dependent in the long run.

Government’s implementation of the Small Business Loan for example, is geared to get citizens to take responsibility for their own development. The extension of skilled training opportunities is also another avenue to a better life.

This administration is committed to upholding our Manifesto declaration: to provide full support to social protection programmes, community development, and social development services to strengthen vulnerable communities, with a view toward making them less dependent on those services.

For this reason, my friends, even in our discussions with the IMF regarding the Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme, we were adamant on this one point: we will neither remove nor reduce the assistance we render to social programmes. Our friends at the IMF understand and support that.

Today, I ask all our citizens to do the same: let us unite in the sustainable development of the disadvantaged amongst us. Their development is intrinsically tied to ours.

It is our God-given, humanistic right to embrace and help each other in tough times. Indeed, these are difficult times for us all; but we know that they feel the pain a little more acutely. Whatever we can do then to ease that burden, let us not hesitate in doing.

I take this occasion to commend Minister Delma Thomas and her team for their untiring work to meet our underprivileged at the point of their need.

Sister Delma has been a champion for the cause. Her heart continues to be in the right place, and with her working on behalf of the elderly, the defenseless children, the abused, the hungry—you have a friend.

I also want to thank the OECS Secretariat, UN WOMEN, UNICEF, and all those who are assisting us in this noble venture; many of whom are represented here today.

Sisters and brothers, let us join hands and accept our collective responsibility in the social and economic development of our homeland.

 

 

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