Government today signed a $20 million loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), saying its aim was to address worrying poverty and unemployment.
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler signed the agreement, along with the IDB representative for Barbados Christel Saab, during a brief ceremony at Government Headquarters.
Sinckler said the objective was to strengthen and rationalize the island’s social safety net and its active labour market policy, while noting that over the past five years, Government has been intensifying its efforts at “mitigating the worse effects of the recessionary conditions so as to ensure that our levels of poverty do not rise beyond what we consider to be acceptable levels”.
In further explaining the need for the loan, which is the first of its kind to be approved by the IDB, he said “we want to utilize skills and resources to bring people back into the mainstream of economic and social life of the country.
“Therefore, the programme’s objective is to contribute to the reduction of extreme poverty and unemployment in Barbados.”
This will be pursued through the expansion and consolidation of the Identification Stabilization Enablement and Empowerment (ISEE) Bridge Programme; enhanced employment services and demand-driven technical training; and the creation of an efficient Management Information System that connects programmes executed by the Ministries of Social Care, Labour and related institutions, Sinckler said.
He also said an important aim was the promotion of social inclusion and accumulation of human capital among the extreme poor and vulnerable, while achieving productive labour market insertion.
“It will also support and improve existing Government programmes targeted at different population groups. Component One will target extremely poor households, while Component Two will target unemployed persons, with an emphasis on vulnerable youth,” Sinckler pointed out.
The programme will be implemented over a five-year period at a cost of $20 million. Of this total, approximately $10 million will be provided from the resources of Ordinary Capital of the Bank, and the other $10 million from the resources of the China Co-financing Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is also administered by the Bank.
It will be executed by the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development (MSCD), which will also be responsible for its overall financial management and implementation. The MSCD will collaborate with the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development for the execution of the labour activities under this project.
Saab, who spoke on behalf of the IDB Country Representative Joel Branski, acknowledged that it was the first time the organization would be working in the social sector in Barbados.
“The IDB is committed to helping the most vulnerable in the country, not only by providing social assistance, but also opportunities for training and employment.
“The programme is based on an integral approach and supports the country’s social and human development strategy, as defined in the Medium-Term Growth and Development Strategy 2013-2020,” she noted.