Boost Program to Continue: Cabinet Pledges Close Monitoring of Beneficiaries
The government says its Boost Program is not going anywhere, but it will closely vet and monitor beneficiaries. On Monday, the Cabinet met and discussed the program, pledging its continuation under the Ministry of Human Development, Families, and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs. In 2021, the government stated it sought to trim down the program as it was focusing more on creating jobs. A recent discussion, however, on the country’s poverty rate has sparked discussions on the need for its continuation. Minister of Human Development, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, weighed in on the Cabinet’s decision.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs: “The update on BOOST is that it will absolutely continue but we have to remember that there are criteria to qualify for the BOOST. And then if your economic circumstances get better then you can graduate out of it. Because BOOST is really meant to protect the most vulnerable and the poorest in our community. Now, we were reminded in Cabinet that the poverty assessments have been done over the years and the poverty assessment for 2018 is different from the one that will come out for 2022. Now if it shows less multidimensional poverty in 2022 that doesn’t mean that we’ll close the boost because we will still have elderly and vulnerable people and people with disabilities. So we only gave an update and a review to cabinet and government and cabinet has agreed that we will continue the program.”
Minister Balderamos Garcia also responded to whether there was an ulterior motive to gain political points behind the announcement, given the political atmosphere.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs: “There is what we call a co-responsibility when you are when you’re on boost. Boost is not just receiving a grocery bag. Boost is that you keep your children in school at least 85 percent of the time. If you’re a mother or parent, you keep your children in school, you make sure that the kids get their vaccination and we make sure that the pregnant mothers go for the prenatal checkups. So we are calling on our vulnerable people and the poorer people. You also have a responsibility. And if you carry out the responsibility of keeping children in school, getting the vaccinations, making sure that the pregnant women go for their prenatal checkup, that gives the citizen a responsibility and then they receive the small donation. I think right now it’s only about $44. And we may have to revisit that amount because right now $44 doesn’t go too far. Boost has been around from 2010 and it was started with international assistance, but now the government funds it. And this has been going on and on, so this could never be an election gimmick. The reason why it made the Cabinet brief is that we gave a report to Cabinet on how it is running and the ways in which we will continue to roll it out. And like I say, ministers made excellent in representations. Let’s look at the poverty level. Let’s look at how many women we have in employment and we all know that there are less women in employment because it’s women who have to mind the children. Now we want to get more women into the workforce but then when you get more women into the workforce what’s the next question? Who will mind the children ? You see? So these are larger social issues, larger social protection issues, but as a government we are absolutely committed to our Plan Belize and to the social protection that we have pledged to do going forward. And I want to assure you once again, no election gimmick.”
GOB says the program is an important pillar of Social Protection for the neediest Belizeans, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.