KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaican government is to spend JA$10 billion this fiscal year to keep poor Jamaicans covered under its social safety net, especially in relation to health care and school nutrition.
This was disclosed in Parliament by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who said that his government has provided an additional $1 billion to expand the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), which has been increased from 243,000 beneficiaries last March to 307,000 by February this year.
This will increase the budget for PATH this year to $3 billion, to expand coverage for all who have fallen in need with the emergence of the global economic crisis since 2008.
He also disclosed that the School Feeding Programme allocation has been increased from $300 million to $1 billion, “so that every hungry mouth can be fed and every hungry brain can be filled.”
This additional amount, Golding said, will increase the total school feeding budget to approximately $3 billion this year.
In the area of the health services, the Prime Minister said that, while last year the government allocated less than $800 million to provide drugs for the public health service, which has been severely pressured since the removal of hospital fees, the allocation has been boosted to $2.5 billion this year, including $300 million from the National Health Fund (NHF).
In addition, $1 billion will be contributed by the NHF to financing the upgrading of strategically placed health centres (clinics) to deal with cases that do not require hospital attendance, in order to ease the pressure on the hospitals.