Committee to examine proposed Social Protection legislation

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A five-member Select Committee of Members of Parliament has been named and tasked with reviewing the Social Protection Bill 2019 which seeks to improve the lives of individuals living in poverty.

The Minister responsible for Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth and Gender Affairs, Samantha Marshall, presented the Bill to Parliament for its second reading on Thursday, when she also identified those who would serve on the committee.

The individuals are Jamale Pringle, Leader of the Opposition and MP for All Saints East and St. Luke; Trevor Walker, MP for Barbuda; Lennox Weston, Minister for Public Works, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, and MP for St. Phillip South; Daryll Matthew, Minister for Sports, Culture, National Festivals and the Arts, and MP for St. John’s Rural South.

There were no objections to those chosen to work along with Marshall, the MP for St. Mary’s South, who will chair the committee.

Minister Marshall, a lawyer, did not state when the select committee would have its first meeting, but she highlighted the significance of the draft legislation that they would be reviewing.

“The Bill really makes provision for the prevention, reduction and elimination of economic discrimination and social vulnerabilities as it relates to poverty and deprivation in Antigua and Barbuda.  It also establishes a Social Protection Board, a Commission, and a Social Protection Appeals Tribunal,” Marshall said.

When perusing the Bill, it was noted that a Social Protection Fund would also be set up and the main objectives are (a) to establish an “efficient, complementary and demand-driven mechanism for delivering basic services and infrastructure to a vulnerable person, utilising nongovernmental organisations, community organisations and local government organisations; and (b) financing small-scale projects in the following areas, namely, basic infrastructure and small-scale productive activities.”

Another two objectives are to provide assistance for the improvement of living conditions, promotion of community participation and enhancement of social protection infrastructure related to health, education, financial and other social assistance; and provide assistance or skill training opportunities to vulnerable persons to alleviate socio-economic hardship or otherwise.

According to the Minister, UNICEF assisted the government of Antigua and Barbuda with the drafting of the legislation, which occurred after consultations were held with various groups in 2016.

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