Safety net programmes to continue, say PM Douglas, Minister Liburd

(left to right) Hon. Dr. Earl Asim Martin; Hon. Marcella Liburd; Hon. Glenn Phillip; Sen. the Hon. Nigel Carty; Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas; Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris; Sen. the Hon. Richard Skerritt and Hon. Patrice Nisbett at Tuesday night’s Town Hall Meeting

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JANUARY 26TH 2011 – Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas and Social Development Minister Hon. Marcella Liburd reaffirmed Government’s policy of ensuring the continuation of the safety net programmes to those who are in need of public assistance following a review of social programmes.

Prime Minister Douglas denied public statements by the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) that Government intends to end the School Feeding Programme.

“As the Government introduces programmes to stabilize the economy we recognise that it can have some effects in a negative way on some people. We want to make sure that those who are unable to bear whatever changes will be made, especially if their own levels of disposable income that they will be protected through our social safety nets,” said Dr. Douglas, who added that the Schools Feeding Programme is one.

He said a survey is being conducted by the Ministry identifying senior citizens who have no means of supporting themselves and who maybe affected by the increase in electricity rates.

“We have put place a system of ensuring that they continue to receive electricity service even though they cannot pay. That is part of the social safety net programme that Minister Marcella Liburd is talking about, said Dr. Douglas during Tuesday night’s Town Hall Meeting to mark the first anniversary of the Government’s Fourth Term in office. The Meeting was moderated by VON’s Radio’s General Manager, Mr. Everad “Webbo” Herbert at the Old Basseterre Boy’s School.

He admitted that there are some people who are abusing the programmes. “There are people who can afford to do a number of things themselves, but deliberately practice wastage,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who added that the Schools Meals Programme was an idea of his St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party when it was in opposition in the early 1990’s.

Local Taxi Driver, Mr. Terrance Williams participating in Tuesday night’s Town Hall Meeting

“It was (former) Minister (Rupert) Herbert who indicated and promised that he will provide students of his constituency with school uniforms and if possible school books if their parents could not provide it themselves. As it was close to the 1995 general election, then (Prime Ministr) Dr. Kennedy Simmonds had heard of it, it was popular and we were saying it from our platform and so he introduced the SELF Programme,” Dr. Douglas pointed out.

He reiterated that the Schools Feeding Programme is part of the SEFL Programme, which the Labour Party supported when in opposition, much less now in Government to remove it.

“Absolute nonsense, deception and information,” said Prime Minister Douglas, adding: “Our children will continue to enjoy the School Feeding Programme.”

Dr. Douglas recalled that his St.Christopher 6 Constituency was the last to get the Schools Meals Programme and only received it after there was a change of Government in July 1995.

“I was told by the PAM Government at the time, that whatever the PAM Government was going to give in this country, you going to get in last. So now I am going to take it away from my own people?” asked Dr. Douglas.

Minister of Social Development Hon. Marcella Liburd said her Ministry is in the process of reforming the Safety Net Programme in an effort to eliminate wastage, double dipping and poor targeting.

“We are looking at the strengths and weaknesses in the system. There are persons who are beneficiaries of our social programme who should not be in and on the other hand there are those who should be in and are not. There is also much wastage and the reform will ensure efficiency and targeting those who are really in need with a view to reducing poverty,” said Minister Liburd.

She said an inter-ministerial committee is carrying out the assignment.

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