I have listened, with embarrassment and dismay, to the Minister for Social Development some weeks ago, as she made some uninformed statements regarding the Support for Education, Empowerment and Development (SEED) Program. I think it incumbent on me to share some pertinent facts regarding this Program, particularly in light of Mr. John Rullow’s recent query into the operations of the SEED.
It is the Minister’s prerogative, to decide with whom she wishes to work, especially in the interest of politics. However, in the interest of Grenada, particularly in the circumstances where a novel program is being implemented, it was unfortunate that the Minister chose to dispense with the services of the persons who were knowledgeable about the SEED and replace them with “party faithfuls”, whose assets are obedience and news-mongering.
Given that she chose to go that route, it is equally unheard of, that the implementation team would fail to use the documentation available at the Ministry to apprise themselves of the origin, status, and next steps about the program, on their assumption of office.
What is even more alarming was the failure of the Manager to meet with the team from the World Bank on several of their many visits immediately following the 2013 General Elections. One of the preconditions outlined by the Bank when the SEED was being developed, was “buy in” of the program by the then Opposition Party. In order to fulfill that mandate the implementation team contacted the then Leader of the Opposition who agreed to participate in a presentation on the SEED by the Ministry Team; however on their arrival at his office at the time he had selected, he was absent. When his Secretary contacted him to remind him of the appointment he indicated that he had forgotten.
As you may be aware the SEED is a part of Grenada’s Safety Net Advancement Program (SNAP), which is administered by the Ministry of Finance. SEED is a conditional cash transfer aimed at eradicating poverty by empowering families. Empowerment in this instance means convincing families of the need to meet education and health milestones, that is, attending schools regularly and observing healthy lifestyle practices, thereby building the human capital of our beautiful country.
The SEED is funded by the World Bank. Although the program is administered by the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministries of Finance, Education and Health provide key supportive roles to ensure that families achieve agreed education and health milestones.
SEED is a merger of three individual cash transfer programs namely, School Transportation, Necessitous Fund and Public Assistance. The beneficiaries of those three programmes were transferred and are now all part of the SEED.
SEED was intended to be a more structured medium for providing cash to a number of families/households who were identified as being very poor and vulnerable based on a Proxy Means Test. The target groups were to include children, the disabled and chronically ill, the elderly, pregnant and lactating mothers and the adult poor who were defined as persons who had been unemployed for a year or more and were actively seeking employment.
The Proxy Means Test as the targeting tool, was to be linked to the Population census to ensure coverage comparable to the poverty line as reflected in the census, thereby ensuring that the most vulnerable families/households were reached.
In designing the PMT we were always aware that, while the census data may be able to identify the poverty areas, there are other variables to take into consideration when the PMT was finally implemented. For example, the proxies and methodology used, which were applicable at that point may have changed as a result of one reason or other and should be adjusted accordingly.
Generally speaking, Proxy Means Testing is challenging and, especially as in our case, where this is relatively novel, close monitoring is extremely critical. These challenges were duly noted during the design of the PMT, especially in relation to the elderly, disabled and chronically ill groups.
The Consultant who designed the tool, in consultation with personnel from the Ministries of Finance and Social Development was always aware of these challenges. I am quite sure that if/when contacted, the Consultant would be willing to make the necessary tweaks/adjustments rather than have one or more of the target groups eliminated or disadvantaged not as a result of any failings on their part but on the part of the Ministry of Social Development.
As a matter of fact, one key administrative component of the SEED was to improve the knowledge capacity of the staff of the implementing Ministry to guard against such embarrassing pitfalls.
Therefore, the continuous unintelligent remarks and statements being made by the Minister for Social Development as she goes about promoting the Revamped SEED citing that the PMT is administered by the World Bank, that no Development Linked Indicators (DLI) have been achieved prior to 2013 and gleefully advancing that the PMT as a targeting tool was initiated by the previous Government so that her Government should not be blamed, is certainly not very palatable to conscious Grenadians either at home or in the diaspora.
It may well be in her best interest to really study the documentation before speaking on this topic or perhaps to desist from such childish, unenlightened and uneducated discourse.
One of the many synonyms associated with the word “revamp” is to restructure. This would indicate that an effort has been made to address the challenges experienced by the old SEED.
The new SEED should therefore be a reflection of the adjustments, which positively advantage all beneficiaries. Based on the pronouncements made by the Minister and SEED Manager and the number of families/households which are negatively affected, including Mr. John Rullow, the new SEED cannot by any stretch of the imagination, be considered an improvement on the SEED that was initiated, developed and implemented by the NDC Administration.