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Most vulnerable in society to benefit from over USD5M

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Social Protection is not a matter of charity or generosity but a basic responsibility of the state and one that the government intends to champion. So says Minister for Equity, Social Justice and Empowerment, Hon Joachim Henry.

Minister Henry lent his voice to discussion and debate in Parliament on November 22, 2022, on an unprecedented Bill that would facilitate the borrowing of over USD$5M to support the implementation of a project dubbed ‘Safety Nets for Vulnerable Populations Affected by Coronavirus’.

Henry, who’s also the Member of Parliament for Castries South East, an area prone to flooding and other natural disasters with a significant marginalized population, said the basis of the borrowing was not to give a bailout to big businesses nor to assist the more affluent in society, but rather, to assist the poor and most vulnerable among us, many who have been left reeling under the negative impacts of a global Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is well known that Saint Lucia, as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), existing within the context of climate change, is highly vulnerable to multiple shocks or hazards and that its population is likely to be negatively impacted by those shocks on a on a frequent basis. It is also widely known that those most impacted and who encounter great difficulty in recovering or bouncing back are those with limited resources to cope. But if we pause to review our national statistics relating to the poor and vulnerable, we will recognize that a significant percentage of the population is deemed poor (25%) and an even higher percentage is categorized as vulnerable. How, then, do we treat our brothers and sisters who are not able to adequately provide for themselves and their families? How do we assist them so they can enjoy a decent standard of living? How do we assist them in building resilience to cope with and respond to shocks?”

The government, he said, via the Ministry of Equity, will spare no effort in providing appropriate support to those in need and will aggressively seek out and utilize new and existing social protection services to help individuals and families cope with crises and shocks, improve livelihood opportunities, invest in human capacity, and protect the aging population as the national development agenda was advanced

The World Bank has noted, “Social protection systems that are well-designed are powerful as they enhance human capital and productivity, reduce inequalities, build resilience and end the inter-generational cycle of poverty. Such systems and tools are transformative as they help mitigate economic and fiscal shocks.”

This project, Minister Henry noted, is intended to serve as a direct response to Saint Lucia’s socio-economic realities, providing social assistance or temporary relief to targeted individuals and households who were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and who have not been able to recover or whose situation may have worsened.

With many of the components spanning a six-month period, the Project consists of 4 main components, namely: Protection using existing cash transfer programs; Protection for the vulnerable populations not on the rosters of transfer programs, working in the informal sector; Support for learning continuity in vulnerable groups and Project Administration and Management.

Calculated at USD $5.2 million, the project will be financed through a soft loan or concessional financing from theSpecialFundsResources of theCaribbeanDevelopmentBank (CBD), allocated from funds provided by theInter-American Development Bank toCDB under the Global Loan Program to build health, social and economic resilience in the member countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States during the COVID-19 crisis.

The loan will be repayable over a period of 23 years, including a 3-year grace period at a variable, convertible rate of 2.89% pa The Loan will cover 98% of the total project cost and will finance transfers to persons and vulnerable populations affected by the Coronavirus, support education continuity, and project management costs. The Government of Saint Lucia will finance the remaining 2% of project costs to the tune of two hundred and ninety-six thousand Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD296,000 or approximately USD $110,000).

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