Social Development Minister defends SEED phase out process

Social Development Minister Delma Thomas maintains that the Keith Mitchell-led regime is not responsible for the phasing out of 476 individuals, who were disqualified from the Support for Education Empowerment and Development (SEED).

Social Development Minister Delma Thomas

Social Development Minister Delma Thomas

Shedding some light on the issue during Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, the female minister said that the removal of some names is a “necessary requirement” in order to meet the criteria set out in an agreement signed with the World Bank in 2011.

She disclosed that the USD5M concessionary loan agreement for the SEED project was signed by former Finance Minister Senator Nazim Burke under the 2008-2013 National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas.

According to Minister Thomas, the SEED programme, which is due to culminate in December 2017, falls under a “Safety Net Advancement Project (SNAP) that was signed with the World Bank for a “conditional cash transfer with a very low interest rate.”

The female government minister shifted the blame from NNP to Congress, alluding to specific criteria that must be followed in order to get the disbursement.

“It has conditionalities attached to it (and) we have to go according to the criteria,” Minister Thomas said, referencing the 21 criteria components and the six dimensions of quality of life as outlined in the agreement.

She stated that these include a “criteria that says you must be getting under EC$200…it also goes onto say that if you have a shop you are also not entitled and there are other criteria that they look at (including the kind of house structure, whether you have running water, toilet facilities, access to power supply (among others), all those are taken into consideration”.

The Minister who is the elected Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North-west expressed the view that the former NDC government should have “looked into the agreement and read the fine print” before signing onto it.

 SEED Manager Leonora Burkmire

SEED Manager Leonora Burkmire

“I heard the past Minister of Social Development (Sylvester Quarless) on television news last night (Monday) speaking of what we are doing in terms of taking out persons but when they signed onto the agreement did they not read the fine print to know exactly what they are signing onto?” she questioned.

“We must decide whether or not we want the World Bank money because in order to get the disbursement we must follow the mandate,” she said, adding, “we need the revenue because we entered into a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), which would enable us to use that money to execute the purpose of the programme.”

THE NEW TODAY understands that “USD.5M (of USD5M World Bank) disbursement would go towards enhancing the capacity of the SEED unit, consultancies and goods and services.

Minister Thomas acknowledged that while 476 persons are being phased out from SEED, “at the same time, in order to meet the World Bank criteria, more than 5000 persons would have also received letters of eligibility (for the programme).”

She noted that the 2011 agreement references the “proxy means testing,” which has been renamed the Grenada Living Condition Indicator (GLCI), “that was used to determine whether persons are eligible (or not).”

She said, “the 476 names that came back as ineligible came from the proxy means testing (which was conducted in July), in keeping with the agreement signed onto by the former government.

“All the data within our system, all the beneficiaries were accessed by Colombian Consultant, Yadira Diaz, who is based in London,” she told reporters while refuting claims by ex-minister Quarless that she was not telling the truth in this regard.

Additionally, Minister Thomas said “it is unfortunate that there are persons with disabilities who would be phased out of the programme,” noting that a “disability does not fall under the criteria of the World Bank agreement for eligibility.”

However, she stated that government subventions are given to the Grenada National Council for the Disabled (GNCD), but with the discussions generated within the last week “maybe we (government) can look deeper into other programmes.”

“Maybe we can look as a government, at giving more subventions (to the GNCD) so that they can provide more services for persons with disabilities,” she remarked.

The Social Development Minister had in her possession a document containing the 2011 agreement, which also speaks to an appeals process in which a person who believes that he/she has been treated unfairly can apply for an appeal to a committee chaired by attorney-at-law Robert Branch.

According to the government minister, the SEED issue affects everybody across political lines” and that there “are persons who are very close to me that have received letters.”

The manager of SEED, Leonora Buckmire, who also spoke at the press briefing said that most persons who are now disqualified from the programme would have experienced significant improvements in their quality of life.

“We are at the stage now where we are reassessing the households” she said, adding that hopefully the committee would meet soon to determine where we are at now.”

Buckmire expressed confidence that not all persons who would have received letters will be appealing because the status of some households would have changed.

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