by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley, has warned citizens and residents of the implications that can arise if individuals become dependent upon Social programs, such as the Poverty Alleviation Program.
“If this dependency syndrome becomes endemic, we will soon find out that we will lose our country, we lose our way, we lose our momentum when it comes to development. So I am asking our people to think about these things.”
During the Wednesday, March 08, hosting of “On The Mark”, Brantley chimed in on the national debate about the reform of the Poverty Alleviation Program by the Government, where some residents are accusing the Government of disapproving or refusing to accept their application.
Brantley shared his opinion that the dependency on Social programs should decrease as the economy rebounds.
“Now, we are coming out of the Pandemic, and we are now seeking to look to growth, development and to get the economy moving. My view is, as the economy starts to move, as we start to create more jobs, as people start to be able to go back to work, you should see the numbers on these social programs falling off. That’s what should happen,” said Brantley.
The Premier added, “We must not seek to treat these programs as if they are permanent programs, where, in perpetuity, a large number of our population expects to get free money from the Government.”
Brantley said he isn’t suggesting that individuals graduate from the PAP and be left in a state of destitution, advising that people develop a different mindset, where they seek job opportunities as they become available, hence earning $500 by the multiples.
Meanwhile, the Premier of Nevis said, based on his recollection, the Poverty Alleviation Programme was not intended to be a permanent program.
“I was part of a Government, Team Unity Government, led by Dr Timothy Harris, that introduced the PAP Program, and I am here today to say that I never understood that the PAP Program was intended to be a permanent program. That was never my understanding as a member of that Government. My understanding was that the PAP Program, like many other programs that were introduced, were introduced as a necessary response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The official launch of the Poverty Alleviation Program was on December 24, 2018. Former Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris said the PAP was introduced to improve the socio-economic status of residents.
Households in the Federation earning less than EC $3,000 monthly were encouraged to apply for the EC $500 stipend. About 4,000 persons were listed as beneficiaries of the PAP.
However, what was once a face-to-face application process, switched into an online application process in March 2020 due to the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the Federation.
Then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Mrs Elreter Simpson- Browne notified the public that individuals who were not on the program but were interested in signing up due to the impact of the Coronavirus should contact the Ministry. Such persons had to meet the following criteria:
• Letter of lay-off or redundancy (Mandatory)
• Evidence of most recent salary/wage slip
• If non-national, country of birth and proof of residency status.
A new Government was elected in August 2022, and Minister responsible for Social Development, Dr Geoffrey Hanley, during an Address to the nation in November 2022, highlighted the inconsistencies related to the PAP.
He said, “there were seven thousand, four hundred and sixty-nine (7,469) payees receiving either Regular PAP or PAP as expanded for Covid.”
Hanley explained that three million four hundred and eighty thousand dollars ($3,480,000) was payable to the 6,960 regular PAP beneficiaries. In contrast, two hundred and fifty-four thousand five hundred dollars ($254,500) was payable to the 509 PAP as expanded for Covid-19 beneficiaries. The overall total was three million, seven hundred and thirty-four thousand, five hundred dollars ($3,734,500).
Additional findings included incomplete and false applications. There was also a public outcry that despite the number of payees, a significant number of eligible households were not benefiting from the PAP.
As a result of the findings, the Government launched a registration process inclusive of all PAP beneficiaries during that period. The registration process, which ended on December 31, 2022, aimed to formalise the Poverty Alleviation Program.