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GOB takes steps to strengthen its social protection system

Social protection is an essential component of public policy and the government is seeking to strengthen its social protection system to help those who have fallen on hard times or lift persons out of poverty.  In this regard, a five-day workshop is being held geared towards accomplishing this end.  Mark Antrobus, the Social Planner at the Ministry of Human Development told the media that the aim of the workshop is to review the progress made from the previous workshop held in 2012, to integrate the sustainable development goals and to chart the way forward.

Mark Antrobus – Social Planner, Ministry of Human Development: “Social protection is important for everybody. That’s the first and important point and social protection is really looking at two things: helping people get out of poverty and also preventing people from falling into poverty so it’s a pickable for everybody. Some people might have a very good job and feel well off right now but we don’t know what’s  going to happen tomorrow; if you may lose your job or if you may become disabled and so there should be a social safety net that helps you in those instances. In 2016, 2017 comprehensive review and the consultants came back and said actually you have lots of different programs, lots of different coverage but you don’t really have a system so we looked at around 50 different programs back in 2016 and so then we had a few recommendations which I will be discussing this week: one of which is to increase coverage, to increase targeting and to make sure we have coverage in the whole life cycle so from pregnant women all the way through to old age.

UNICEF is one of the stakeholders in the social protection workshop and and Michel Guinand, the Social Protection Specialist, shared how the program will benefit children.

Michel Guinand – Social Protection Specialist: “For instance why one the possibilities of social protection is through providing transfers or social benefits to the beneficiaries: one example is the cash transfers so there are a number of evidences, academic evidences that show that there has been a reduction of child labour and an increasing in the enrollment of the education system for the poorest people in the country that has received the cash transfers.”

Asha Williams, the Social Protection Specialist for the World Bank’s Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice in Latin America and Caribbean region, said that the World Bank is assisting in development of Belize’s social protection system.

Asha Williams – Social Protection Specialist for the World Bank: “Developing information systems is something that I am going to speak about this week. It is a challenge that several countries are faced with. A lot of countries implement multiple programs and they struggle to coordinate the implementation of those programs and I think that Belize was able to do something really innovative when they developed their Single Information Beneficiary System which was a very important lesson for the Caribbean countries which also struggle with implementing these systems. They are often very costly and I think one of the things the Ministry was able to demonstrate was that you can actually improvise and  implement a comprehensive information system with the resources that you have.

Ariel Pino, the Specialist on Social Protection at the International Labour Organization, ILO, spoke about some of the problems specific to Belize.

Ariel Pino – Specialist on Social Protection, ILO: “We had component which we can call social welfare or non contributory and we have component which is contributory which is coming from the Labour Market and this is certainly something that will need to improve in because in Belize you have a lot of informal sectors and therefore you are missing some important contributory capacities to extend social security and if you extend social security you are creating more formal employment therefore you are reducing the need to use social assistance so a creation based on principles of decent work which means that it is a formal employment, which means that it is protecting the terms of the formal conditions is a must and benefit for a social protection system as a whole.”

Anthony Martinez, the Minister of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation said that the program will ensure that the most vulnerable people are protected.