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Sep 6, 2006

Government formulates anti-poverty strategy

Story PictureThe poor, it has been said, will always be with us. And while that old adage may be technically true, it does not mean that the reduction of poverty should not be a government’s top priority. But the goal is the easy part; it’s how you get there that always seems to elude our grasp. Today the Ministry of National Development opened a dialogue seeking to formulate the best strategy to change that situation. News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Hugh O?Brien, C.E.O. Minister of National Development
?It is intolerable that in a country with a G.D.P. rate as we have, that the poverty level is still at thirty-three point five percent, including ten point eight percent who are considered very poor. The figures might sound unbelievable and the measures used to assess poverty may not apply to every single case in Belize, but a drive through Port Loyola on the Southside of Belize City or in a few villages such as Arenal or Paslow Falls in Cayo will serve to awaken anyone to the reality that poverty does exist in Belize.?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
And to drive home that very point, today the Ministry of National Development released its technical and institutional reports to its government and non-governmental partners. The documents will be the backbone of Belize?s National Poverty Elimination Strategy and Action Plan for the next four years.

Dwayne Belisle, Acting Director, Policy and Planning Unit
?At the end of the day, this information will feed into the final strategy which has yet to be formulated, written and finalized. So this is a good opportunity for them to come together and say this needs to be changed, this is not consistent with what we see on the ground and it?s a chance for them to have some input and feedback into the final strategy. What we are trying to today is share them with the public and key stakeholders in terms of the information and findings that we found in doing the reports.?

Some of those findings include critical analyses of successful poverty alleviation projects. In one such initiative in Indian Church, supervisors found that teaching employable skills, in this case how to make handicraft and souvenirs to sell to tourists at Lamanai, had a profound effect on villagers.

Oscar Alonzo, Director, Social Investment Fund
?They feel, their esteem has increased especially the women, who have been able to find a very important means of producing income for the education of the children. Some of them have children attending high school in Orange Walk. The scope of opportunities that the training has provided has indicated to them that they will be able to go further.?

That?s the feeling government officials say they would like to see replicated across the country.

Mark Espat, Minister of National Development
?Poverty is punishment for a crime you did not commit. It would nice for the poor to get even half of the money spent studying them.?

Today National Development Minister Mark Espat highlighted the projects already developed for poverty alleviation. But…

Mark Espat
?These plans though will be useless if they are just ambitions or aspirations and if the appropriate financial resources are not allocated for implementation. It is therefore crucial that government gets its financial house in order and set in place a medium term budgeting framework targeting macro-economic stability and maintaining a policy focus on health, education and poverty reduction. For this medium term framework to be sustainable of course we must be successful in our debt relief efforts and as it is presently conceived we must remain on the path of fiscal discipline. These must be the beginning of a sustained battle to eliminate poverty and the root causes of poverty as it relates specifically to the quality of health care, relevancy of education, safety of our streets, the quality of jobs and the dignity of retirement for our people.?

The National Poverty Eliminated Strategy and Action Plan is scheduled to be completed by October.

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

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