Charles: NICE strayed from original concept

Nancy Charles, the Attache to Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, has told reporters that the  intention of the cabinet conclusion on the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) and  what is happening with the NICE programme today  are quite different.

But she made it clear that were it implemented as proposed, the programme  would have been a very good one and there was no objection to it as originally intended.

Charles said when the United Workers Party (UWP) came to power last year it decided to review the NICE programme.

“We did not do an audit – we were not looking at the money aspect in terms of who was paid and what, but we  just wanted to find out as a government whether the NICE programme had achieved its purpose and where it was at so that we could decide on the way forward, where we would like to go with the programme,” she explained.

Charles said the NICE  programme was originally intended to be a  programme which would have expired after the three years,d inject an estimated $100 million into the economy and prepare young persons for future employment by giving them work experience and training.

She told reporters that there were three basic aspects to the initiative.

Charles said these included the constituency infrastructure programme to restore failing infrastructure  in the constituencies, thereby helping young people to develop construction skills.

Charles explained that the component lasted for  the intended one year and the government spent approximately $17 million.

According to Charles, the government  could not determine who were the contractors and the beneficiaries of the constituency infrastructure programme and who were the young persons who gained skills.

“So in my opinion I don’t think that was a success,” she told reporters

She disclosed that there was also a small business assistance component to the NICE programme under which there were four levels of assistance to be provided – technical, research and development, product and market development assistance and the provision of credit facilities.

Charles said small businesses that had recently commenced were supposed to have been targeted.

However she said some of the businesses that benefited were Tenderoni  Foods Limited, a company which has been in existence for years.

“I don’t know if in other people’s opinion this is considered to be a small start up business, but in my opinion, no,” Charles declared.

She said True Value Building and Hardware Supplies in Vieux Fort, which she described as a successful business also benefited along with Foster and Ince Services, the  Arts Cafe and the  West Coast Credit Union.

According to Nancy Charles, those were the businesses to which the most money was allocated.

“We were asking the question: ‘What type of technical support did they provide to those businesses?'” She told reporters.

Charles said there was one small business that stood out – an entrepreneur from Ciceron who was producing coconut oil.

“Today he is a success story,” she noted.

Charles said credit facilities were not made available to some of the businesses which were instead given grants.

She said there was a National Apprenticeship Programme component of NICE, to facilitate apprenticeship and placements.

Charles said young persons were to be placed in private institutions for training, with the government paying 60 percent of the salary and the private sector entity paying the rest.

She said the intention of the government at the time was for the training component to target persons to be incorporated into a planned housing scheme.

Charles explained that the initiative never materialised because there was no housing scheme.

She said there was never a social aspect of NICE in the cabinet conclusion, the intention of which was for all the programmes to be self-sustainable.

She explained that the home health care programme was never part of the  cabinet conclusion but due to the failure of the other components, the NICE programme became ‘creative’ and began implementing other initiatives.

Charles disclosed that NICE had employed over 1000 persons.

“While the contract that was given to them stated that it was only to be for six months, what you had happening was that all those persons their contracts were being renewed over and over again, so what you had was a dependency was being created,” the PM’s Attache observed.

Non renewal notices of NICE contracts have been issued to employees of the programme as the current administration reviews the initiative.