Mr Denzil Thorpe
Director of Social Security
Ministry of Labour and Social Security
to the 49th Session of the Commission on Social Development
on Agenda Item 3: Social Protection and Poverty Eradication
United Nations, New York
14th February 2011
My delegation wishes to align itself with the statements previously made by Argentina on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, by Chile on behalf of the Rio Group, and by Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of CARICOM.
Since this is the first time that my delegation is taking the floor, let me congratulate you and the members of the Bureau on your election, and assure you of our support during your tenure. I also want to thank the Secretariat for the comprehensive reports submitted on the Agenda items under consideration. My delegation is particularly keen to participate in and even more so to gather pertinent information and guidelines from an active exchange of views on the thought provoking discussion points raised in the documents on social protection and the special groups.
Jamaica is of the view that the current emphasis by this Commission on the emerging issue of social protection is fitting since it is a fundamental pillar in any country’s efforts towards implementing poverty eradication strategies and the protection and development of special groups. The global financial and economic crisis has brought into sharp focus the important role that such measures play in improving and preserving the quality of life of our citizens. The challenges faced in recent times have proven that effective social protection systems can and do serve as cushions for our citizens against the impact of not only financial and economic shocks, but other major catastrophes such as natural disasters.
For Jamaica, the main tenets of the Social Protection system are similar to those that exist in most other countries. That is:
i) Social Insurance
The National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is a mandatory contribution-funded social insurance system which provides benefits to workers upon retirement, sickness on the job, disability, maternity (for domestic workers only) or death of the contributor or his/her spouse.
ii) Social Assistance
The Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) is a conditional cash transfer system which seeks to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by stimulating behaviour change among beneficiaries focussed on school attendance and accessing of basic health services.
iii) Labour and Employment Regulations
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security monitors employers to ensure compliance with labour laws, occupational safety and health best practices and the decent work agenda. The Ministry also plays a major role in resolving employment disputes and is responsible for setting and monitoring the National Minimum Wage.
In the past, the payment mechanisms of NIS and PATH have been used to provide additional benefits to beneficiaries following the devastating effects of hurricanes that have caused major damage to our island. Also, as a part of the response to the global financial crisis, there were timely adjustments to the regular benefit rates for NIS and PATH beneficiaries as well as the National Minimum Wage. Additionally, the scope of PATH was recently adjusted to include a further ten thousand older persons and persons with disabilities who may have been adversely affected by the economic crisis. Also with the ageing of our population, there is a major reform of the NIS, as well as private pension systems to ensure their viability and sustainability, and that coverage and participation is extended to more persons.
These measures, along with the policies for free basic health care and free education up to the secondary level, among others, go a far way in doing exactly what social protection systems are supposed to. That is, to protect all our citizens, with special emphasis on the most vulnerable, including the youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups.
In answer to one of the questions asked in the paper on social protection, let me point out that for Jamaica, scarcity of resources presents a major challenge to extending social protection. However, the Government remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that the systems put in place are constantly enhanced and refined in order to meet our ultimate goal of poverty eradication. For example, grant funding has been sourced to establish a major project to assist in the enhancement of services for persons with disabilities.
This project will seek to provide institutional strengthening of the agencies responsible for the educational, social and economic development of persons with disabilities as well as the development of children 0 to 6 years who were born with physical or learning disabilities through specialized training and stimulation. The main objectives of the project will be to promote awareness of the services being offered by these agencies, increase accessibility of these services by the disabled community and more importantly to establish a modern, comprehensive Disability Register.
This is in keeping with the recommendation made by the Special Rapporteur on Disability that “Member States and the United Nations should urgently address the issue of lack of statistics and data on disability and analysis of the situation of persons with disabilities in economic and social development.”
Jamaica shares the view that poverty eradication strategies are interlinked with the challenges posed by social phenomena in other development sectors. The dramatic increase in incidences of non-communicable diseases, particularly, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases clearly demonstrates this connection. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that "in addition to their enormously negative impact on the health of a population, non-communicable diseases are now emerging globally as a serious macroeconomic and developmental challenge because of the loss of productivity, rapidly rising health-care costs and the links with poverty". As we pursue our respective mandates on the social development agenda, it is imperative that we take into consideration the impact that these non-communicable diseases can have on our efforts to eradicate poverty and to achieve the other Millennium Development Goals.
Jamaica remains steadfast in our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, the World Programme of Action for Youth and the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing. As we have indicated in the past, these principles have been intricately intertwined in our own ambitious plan to achieve developed country status by the year 2030.
We are convinced, that despite the challenges we face as a country, and despite the economic crisis that has affected all of us globally – if we continue to work together as countries functioning as one United Nation in support of each other, we will all be able to meet the targets we set individually for the development of our countries and our people.
I thank you.