Monday, January 28, 2008

LEAP Scheme is sustainable

LEAP Scheme is sustainable

Daily Graphic, Monday, January 28, 2008. Page 39 (News)

Charles Benoni Okine

An economist of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Dr Robert Darko Osei, has indicated that the proposed Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) scheme, under which the extremely poor and vulnerable would be provided financial support to meet their basic needs, is feasible.

Under the programme, which is a component of the National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS), the government has proposed to pay between GH¢8 and GH¢15 to extremely poor households in the country every two months to enable them engage in self-sustaining income generating ventures to support themselves and their dependents.

Reacting to concerns about the sustainability and feasibility of the scheme in Accra, Dr Osei said, “the scheme will not be problematic at all because of the comprehensive measure put in place to ensure its success.” Consequently her called on Ghanaians, particularly politicians, not to politicise the programme at the expense of the poor and vulnerable in the country. Dr Osei said systems have been designed and put in place to ensure that the rue beneficiaries got the money.

According to data from the Ghana Statistical Service, extremely poor people in the country live on about 50 cents per day. Dr Osei said a special software had been designed to ensure that all information gathered was duly processed to select those who truly qualified as potential beneficiaries. He says the system has been so designed that there cannot be any political manipulations.

Dr Osei said those who worked on the programme have learnt a lot from the experiences of Brazil and South Africa as well as Kenya, which is just about to begin implementing its programme.

On the financial sustainability and of the programme, he said “the programme only targets the bottom 20 per cent of the extremely poor households in the country and the amount to be spent on them was nothing we should about at all,” he said.

In the first year of the programme, 15, 000 in 50 districts of the country have been targeted and the total expenditure for that year will be GH¢8 million. The second year will cater for 35,000 also in 50 districts while 500, 000 households in 70 districts would be reached in the third year. In the fourth year, 100,000 households in 138 dsitricts would benefit while the final year will cover all the 230 districts. In the final year, GH¢26 million will be spent and this, he said, constituted only 0.1 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Meanwhile, a sensitisation workshop on the scheme had been held at Koforidua, reports Nana Konadu Agyeman. The Project Co-ordinator of the NSPS, Mrs Angela Asante-Asare, said the scheme, the first of its kind to be implemented in West Africa, would be carried out on a pilot basis over a five-year period between 2008-2012. the amount would be paid through recognised payment agencies, including the Ghana Post, would be supervised by the Department of Social Welfare under the auspices of the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment.

The Workshop, which was among other things, aimed at sensitising the participants to understand the concept and objectives of the scheme, was attended by the Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Kwadwo Affram Asiedu, municipal and district chief executives, the presiding members of the assemblies and officials of the Department of Social Welfare.

According to the Project Co-ordinator of NSPS, the beneficiaries would comprise maily extremely poor citizens aged above 65 years, caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS and children with severe disabilities. Others she said, would include extremely poor subsistence farmers and fisher folks, persons with severe disabilities without productive capacity, preganct and lacating women with HIV/AIDS.

According to her, it had been estimated that 800,000 households in the country were extremely poor and did not have the capacity to meet their basic nutritional needs. Mrs Asante-Asare said the LEAP scheme, would enable the country to meet certain requirements of the Millennium Development Goals.

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