Former Chief Medical Officer, Dr Patrick Martin is lobbying for more to be done to reduce the current 20% 20 poverty rate in St Kitts and Nevis, despite lowering debt to GDP ratio and talk of surpluses and surpluses.
Dr Martin in an op-ed captioned “Emancipation from programmed dependency” called for an end to “wasting of money on programmed dependency” and instead an “investment in human capital improvement to maximize creativity, productivity and good work ethic.”
“Such is the nature of transformation politics,” said Dr Martin, who zeroed in on the recently introduced Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) and expressed the view that seeking government handouts is like sitting in the sidewalk and begging bread.
“This is exactly what programmed dependency encourages. A mentality of getting things without effort. Programmed dependency exists when otherwise able adults are officially categorised as poor without scientific assessment including means-testing. Such persons may be given money from the Treasury without performance conditions. If not money, a contract, house or land may be part of the giving and receiving,” said Dr Martin.
Dr Martin noted that at the end of June 2019, some 3,928 poor households were receiving direct monetary assistance.
“There were 2,322 poor households recorded by 2008 Poverty Assessment Survey,” said Dr Martin, who pointed out that data suggests an increase in household poverty from 13.5% in 2008 to 20% in 2019 during a time of positive GDP growth, favourable debt-to-GDP ratio and fiscal surpluses,” said Dr Martin, who added: “Surely, a rising economic tide should have lifted more households out of poverty.”
He pointed out that the PAP payout as of the end of June was EC$13.5 million and asks: “How much of this quantum is going to undeserving households?”
Dr Martin said programmed dependency is unsustainable and must be stopped as neither social security nor national health insurance are viable if the financial burden of dependants is greater than the taxes paid by workers.
“A bankrupt Social Security or NHI suggest a failed state. Such can happen in the Federation if its mounting rates of chronic disease and dependency continue unabated,” said Dr Martin, who pointed out that human capital improvement should be the principle driving poverty alleviation.
“Any such program should be about empowering people with skills to lift themselves out of poverty. Teaching people how to fish is far better than merely giving fish,” said Dr Martin.