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BOOST Program Success to be duplicated in the Caribbean Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 00:00

Ministers and senior ranking public officials from eight Caribbean countries are in Belize on a study tour of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme called operation ‘BOOST’. The Building Opportunities for Our Social Transformation (BOOST) Programme has been dubbed by the World Bank as the best social protection programme in the hemisphere and multilateral development organizations are encouraging member states to study and adopt it.  

The Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation is collaborating with the Organization of American States (OAS), UNICEF and UNDP to host a Horizontal Cooperation Exchange from May 13th to 15th. The Ministers with responsibility for social development from Grenada and Dominica are attending the event as well as senior officials from Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, Judith Alpuche, says the program is of particular interest to these countries because of the similarities in demographics.

CEO Alpuche says countries like Brazil and Mexico are the grandfathers of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programmes in the hemisphere “but we have brought it to scale” for small countries like Belize. It was at a workshop held in Belize for the Caribbean Leadership Development Programme in January of this year that regional policy makers were first intrigued by the success of BOOST. At that time, a number of them expressed a desire to return in order to have a closer look at the programme.

Over 13,000 people are now benefitting from the BOOST programme. It is effective because it provides financial support to the country’s most vulnerable citizens, the indigent. The World Bank explains the programme best: “The deal is simple: vaccinate your children, send them to school; and, if you are pregnant, visit your public health center, regularly starting with the first 12 weeks. In exchange, the BOOST Program will give you a monthly allowance between BZ$44 and BZ$82 (US$22 - US$41) per person, up to a maximum of six per household.” The program has yielded immediate results. Recorded school attendance for children included in the program is over 97 percent. Almost 95 percent are receiving their cash through credit unions and the program also supports beneficiaries in accessing financial services, such as savings and micro-loans as a step towards their financial independence. Alpuche says, “We have quite a bit to share based on our experiences.”

 Opponents of the programme claim that it promotes dependency and “laziness”. Alpuche says, “That is a fallacy.” She says it is based on a prejudice upon poor people. Alpuche says, “Poor people are not lazy, nobody wants to be poor and if given a chance they will do better for themselves.” She says BOOST is not a programme you can sit on and just exist because “the program features shared responsibilities. It provides support but not ‘perverse incentives’.”

The Government of Belize spends over $5 million for the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme. When the United Democratic Party was elected, the budget for social assistance programmes was about $500,000 total.