Minister for Equity, Social Justice, Local Government and Empowerment, Lenard Montoute, has disclosed that no significant gains have been made in Saint Lucia in reducing poverty figures.
However, he explained that the government of Saint Lucia continues to allocate a substantial amount of its limited resources, estimated at about $34 million, towards poverty reduction efforts.
Montoute made the remarks in Grenada Tuesday morning.
He is heading a local delegation there to examine that country’s successful social safety net programme dubbed SEED, the acronym for Support for Education, Empowerment and Development.
He revealed that data ffrom successive country poverty assessments highlight the ‘persistent stubbornness’ of Saint Lucia’s poverty head count, which has remained ‘protractedly high’ at an average of 25 percent of the population over the past two to three decades.
“This inertia in relation to poverty figures is symptomatic of a deeply entrenched systemic and structurally persistent integrational poverty situation among 25 percent of households in Saint Lucia,” the Saint Lucia Minister explained.
He observed that while several reasons can be advanced for what he described as the less that satisfactory ability of social safety net programmes to ‘meaningfully and sustainably’ lift poor households out of poverty, six stand out.
Mountoute mentioned the six, which included inadequate targetting that leads to errors of exclusion and inclusion, exploitation of the system and the poor not being ‘incentivised’ to invest in their assets.
He recalled that Saint Lucia, Grenada and St Kitts & Nevis were beneficiaries of a UNICEF funded social safety net assessment in 2009.
The Minister noted that similar characteristics in the social protection systems were noted in the assessment.
He said they included fragmentation of the social safety net system and a poor targetting mechanism.
Montoute noted that the recommendations coming out of the assessment were similar – the development of a social protection strategy; the consolidation and rationalisation of major social programmes; the development of central beneficiary registries and the development of a proper targetting instrument, among other things.
He observed that the Grenada government has managed, to a large extent, to implement the reforms through the SEED prrogramme.
The Minister said Saint Lucia has adopted some of the recommendations, including the development of a social protection policy, a social protection action plan, a draft social protection bill and a targeting instrument.
But he asserted that the reform process has moved slower than initially anticipated, largely due to ‘competing national priorities.’
Nevertheless, Montoute declared that Grenada’s success has reignited hope that reform is possible.