The government seems determined to improve the delivery of social services and in doing so, conserve resources.
To do so, it will enter into a $7.5 million loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a social safety net project.
State Minister of Finance, Michael Halkitis said there would be close to 100 percent Bahamian involvement in raising the money, which would be used to fund a number of activities including a nationwide survey to update the characteristics of poverty in The Bahamas
“[He said the money would also be used for] the modernization of the delivery method for food stamps, first in New Providence and in Grand Bahama,” he explained.
“This would reduce the administration cost of the programme and allow the scarce resources of trained social workers to shift towards other areas of providing assistance and altering the method of determining recipients of assistance from a focus on input – that is how much each person receives – to an output, assistance in helping that individual climb out of an stay out of poverty.”
Mr. Halkitis acknowledged that this is an ambitious programme, but said that with assistance from the IDB, it would succeed.
The 2012/2013 budget allocates some $39.9 million for the Department of Social Services, approximately 29 percent of which is spent on the food stamp programme and six percent on the school lunch programme.
“Unfortunately this amount has been constant over the past three fiscal periods and while reflecting the general economic environment, it also reflects a certain level of inefficiency,” Mr. Halkitis said.
“…We cannot say that these programmes are achieving their ultimate objective, which is providing assistance to those most in need and making sure the ultimate objective is achieved – moving Bahamians who are below the poverty line out of it in a sustainable way.”
Based on the 2001 Living Conditions Survey, completed in 2005, 28,000 people were living below the poverty line.
The survey determined that the minimum amount of money needed to purchase an adequate low cost diet with allowances of non food needs was $7.84 per day.
It was further revealed that 75 per cent of poor households at the time had five or more people, 45 per cent of all poor households were headed by single mothers and that children 14 years and younger comprised 50 per cent of the nation’s poor.
Some 11 years later, these figures are expected to be “much more.”