Two days ago, we told you all about the Ministry of Human Development's Social Protection Programmes, BOOST and the Food Pantry. Those and other initiatives are under the microscope all this week as the ministry engages in what's called a Social Policy Dialogue. It's a major effort with local and international stakeholders giving their input on suitable models for social protection.

At the opening this morning, Education Minister Patrick Faber says a practical approach to problem solving is best:..

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"We have been critically ill for a very long time when it comes to our social policy. We have been critically ill for a long time when it comes to social justice in this country - when the poor and the vulnerable do not have access to basic services and opportunities to help them break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability then it is not only their quality of life that is affected by the quality of life for all of us. We must be practical in our approach to social policy. We must know where we are. We must set achievable goals for more desirable state of affairs and we must plan how we are going to do this more desirable state of affairs. In short these are situations where we truly problem solved and think outside the box. As we deliberate over the next couple of days remember that we need to begin with our reality, decide what is worth wanting and achievable and then consider what is the best way to get there, especially in those unfamiliar unique situations."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"I always believe that yes policies are always good to guidelines and so but practical information and practical doing of things is very important especially to poor people, like having people standing in lines for a long time not knowing where they are going, not knowing what the processes are; how easy it is - the easy access to poor people is always important to me."

A cabinet subcommittee has been formed to look at the consolidation of services - to tie-in and harmonize the various social protection initiatives.

We also had the opportunity to ask Martinez about social protection programmes that he commandeered when he was Minister of Works. There was the Southside Rejuvenation Project, and The Poverty Alleviation Project.

We'd venture to say that Millions of dollars in weekly salaries were disbursed with not a whole lot to show for it. But Martinez says there were tangible benefits:..

Jules Vasquez
"As former Minister of works in charge of South Side Poverty Alleviation Project, you have burnt through millions of dollars in social assistance but it's not meaningful, its meaningful social assistance because it's just giving the people an end and also many times giving them an end for no work with no supervision, with no equipment."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"No, you are not talking about the Poverty Alleviation Project - you have covered that and have seen the people working there including myself helping to clean out drains."

Jules Vasquez
"That was just one day."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"That was not just one day. The people needed to sign in, they need to have an account and so the basic life skills and preparing people for work. People that didn't know to do anything - at least they can use a shovel or a spade or a rake. A lot of people came from not even having a Social Security Card, birthday to every single person have an account and they learn some life skills that they are living on today. Majority of the people from the Southside project are working on the canal."

Jules Vasquez
"All those single mothers who are employed under the Southside or the Poverty Alleviation Project and now that that project has wind up."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Some of them are being placed. Some of them are working - presently there is a distribution center for food pantry at Euphrates Avenue."

Jules Vasquez
"Looking at it now - seeing from the Minister's perspective being the Minister of Social Services, do you think it would have been wiser to have constructed that program as they did the BOOST in a very systematic way that it's a conditional cash transfer. At the end of your program, let's be honest Minister, people were being paid for doing nothing."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"I don't know where you get that from and maybe that is you view and I am sorry sir, if you notice the last part of the program - you could go in the St. Martin's area, all those lots that were bush - so why are you telling me that people were being paid to do nothing? I am sorry sir, I had my own view in what I believe about gang truce, that's another case but in terms of the Southside Poverty Rejuvenation Project that's another case."

Martinez says 400+ form those now defunct programmes are working or self-employed.

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