Mrs. Colette Roberts Risden
Director of Social Security
Ministry of Labour and Social Security
to the 48th Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development
on Agenda Item 3 (b): Review the Plans and Programmes of Action Pertaining to the Situation of Social Groups
United Nations, New York
5th February 2010
Jamaica aligns itself with the statement made by Yemen on behalf of the G77 and China, and by Mexico on behalf of the Rio Group.
Jamaica welcomes the continued focus of the Commission on the situation of special groups, and in particular, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and the family. The Government of Jamaica is actively working at the national level to improve the quality of life of these groups in an effort to build a harmonious and people-centred society.
Last year, my delegation reported on the status of many of the policies, programmes and actions being undertaken to ensure that the vulnerable are protected while striving towards an inclusive society. I am happy to report that despite the current economic and financial challenges, rising unemployment and declining income, we have not reneged on our social responsibility and commitment of working towards a society for all – a society that recognizes and embraces diversity, while at the same time is inclusive.
Jamaica remains resolute and supports the concept of a minimum social protection floor. Affirmation of our commitment is evident in the continuance of the policy for free health care, free education up to the secondary level, a 40% expansion in the conditional cash transfer programme, the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), improvement in social insurance benefits, the implementation of a pilot “Steps-to-Work Programme,” and a further projected 25% increase in our social safety net expenditure in the next financial year. We believe that the vulnerable among us must be protected while we work to emerge out of the current crisis a stronger nation.
In 2008, 11% of Jamaica’s population was over 60 years. It is projected that by the year 2050 older person will comprise approximately 22% of the population. Older persons’ contribution to the economy and in fostering social stability is immeasurable. However, while the increase in life expectancy is an achievement; it will result in significant challenges to ensure adequate health and social protection systems. Currently less than 35% of persons 60 years and over receive a pension. Given the fact that over 50% of the labour force is engaged in informal work and do not contribute to social insurance, the percentage of older persons without adequate income security will increase if deliberate action is not taken. While we encourage personal responsibility, consideration is being given to the implementation of a social pension.
Jamaica continues to work towards legislation for a National Disabilities Rights Act. In the past year, the barriers to deaf persons obtaining driver’s licenses have been removed.
As recent as last week, with assistance from UNESCO, Jamaica hosted the first forum of Ministers responsible for social and sustainable social development in the Caribbean. The forum examined social development strategies for the Caribbean youth in the context of the global crisis.
The rapid rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represents a major health and developmental challenge, particularly for developing countries. The prevalence and mortality rates of chronic NCDs in the Caribbean are among the highest in the world. 62% of deaths in the region in 2004 were due to non-communicable diseases. It is evident that NCDs are linked to poverty and represent a major threat to socio-economic development, in particular in achieving the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development and assess the progress made, there is an urgent need to address this issue. We urge Member States to support the proposed CARICOM resolution on NCDs, and the call for a UN Summit to, inter alia, establish an effective global response to the issue.
I would like to highlight Jamaica’s Vision 2030 Plan. About two years ago we embarked upon the development of an ambitious plan with a vision for Jamaica to achieve developed country status by the year 2030. The vision 2030 plan was crafted using a participatory and consultative approach with over 30 technical working groups. The groups drew on academia, technical experts, representatives from NGO organisations, government, community based organization and employers.
Our vision as articulated is “Jamaica: The Place of Choice to Live, Work, Raise Families and do Business”.
Let me emphasize, that Jamaica is committed to the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration, the Millennium Development goals, the World Programme of Action for Youth, the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing and the Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities. It is for this reason; the Vision 2030 plan embodies all our commitments and lays the framework whereby all government Ministries and Departments will mainstream our commitments, foster social integration and ultimately a society for all.
Mr. Chairman, our Vision is grand but if we think it and are steadfast, we can do it. I invite our global partners, to join and support us as we embark on this journey.
I thank you.