By Pamala Proverbs
It is not often that the words ‘poverty’ and ‘Barbados’ are used in the same sentence. The island enjoys a high ranking on the UNDP Human Development Index, and according to a Barbados Country Assessment of Living Conditions Report, it ranks in the top 50 countries in the world. Nevertheless, there are still some sections of Barbadian society who require social support to help them improve their substandard living conditions.
In an attempt to address this issue, the Government of Barbados, backed by a US$10m Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan, (US $5 million of which came from the China Co-financing Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean), this month launched the ‘Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados’ Project. The project, to be executed by the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education, Science Technology and Innovation, is the first of its kind for the IDB in the area of social protection and labour markets on the island.
The five-year project is targeted at retrenched workers, the unemployed, and vulnerable youth aged 16-30 years. It will also help 250 households in an adapted version of the Identification, Stabilization, Enablement, Empowerment (ISEE) Bridge Program. The project will also facilitate better information sharing among key agencies and enhance institutional support networks through a new Management Information System (MIS). To add to this, two hundred (200) public servants will be trained in Monitoring and Evaluation, MIS, Project Management and Microsoft Project.
In an emotionally-charged launching ceremony punctuated by drama, dance and song, Project Coordinator Maureen Pollard used this medium to capture the imagination of the audience, comprised mainly of private sector, civil society and governmental actors, to feel and experience the plight of the most vulnerable persons in Barbadian society.
During her multimedia presentation, she emphasised that “there is a deep history of inter-generational poverty and unemployment in Barbados.” She explained that it is for this reason that the Government had chosen a “family-centred approach to upskilling our most vulnerable families and to help break this generational cycle of poverty that is so pervasive in our society.”
Speaking on behalf of the IDB, Country Representative Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas said that the Bank was very proud to be a continued partner of the Government of Barbados and commended the Ministry on its approach to the multifaceted development project. “This kind of social care and labour market initiative is a first in the lifespan of the IDB’s partnership with Barbados. We congratulate the Government of Barbados on its commitment to strengthening its poorest citizens, and we look forward to assisting to reduce poverty and inequality in Barbados in any way we can. Investments like this project are a perfect example of the IDB’s dedication to improving the lives of citizens of countries all across Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.
The Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados project has three main components intended to strengthen the development of the people of Barbados:
- the expansion of the ISEE Bridge project scope to include more Barbadian families;
- the strengthening of the active labour market policy; and
- an enhanced institutional capacity and support network through a new MIS system, for those who require social assistance. It seeks to achieve these through literacy and numeracy training, careers counselling and technical training, and by improving information sharing capacity.
Being the first IDB/Government of Barbados loan in the area of social protection and labor markets, it contributes to the IDB having a more comprehensive portfolio with the island. Tourism, Transportation and Logistics (Road Rehabilitation), Energy and Integrated Coastal Zone Management, and Climate Resilience (ICZM) are the priority sectors, the selection of which reflects the areas in which the Bank and the Government of Barbados can most readily engage to support growth. They have been validated by civil society and the private sector, and are aligned with the Barbadian Government’s priorities included in the 2013-2020 Barbados Growth and Development Strategy.
Project Coordinator Maureen Pollard
Praise Academy of Dance
Photos: Dance used to showcase project objectives