NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin yesterday said a recent Inter American Development Bank (IDB) report has validated the work of the axed RISE (Renewing, Inspiring, Sustaining and Empowering) program.
Griffin said the report evidenced the Christie’s administrations efforts to “break generational poverty” in The Bahamas during a press conference yesterday.
The IDB’s project completion report noted that more than $5.3 million in Inter-American Development Bank-financing had been spent prior to the program being stopped.
The report said the project was cancelled after a “change in policy direction based on the change in the political administration” following the general election.
Yesterday, Griffin said the truth has finally been revealed, noting the report is a “very telling” story of a government, which continues to put the needs of the “most vulnerable persons in our country on the back burner”.
“The RISE program was more than just a signature project or poster toy for the ministry; it was a critical plan to improve the quality of life for thousands of Bahamians who were living below the poverty line and experiencing generational setbacks from which many of them could find no way out,” she said at a press conference at PLP headquarters on Farrington Road.
“The RISE program was a not a willy-nilly, hurried approach to what had become a critical life-long existence for so many of our people on welfare. It was a well-considered, well studied, well researched, well tried and proven approach to provide for themselves and their families in a highly competitive world. It was a work that was ongoing in various stages from 2002.”
When contacted, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said he became the minister for social services long after the program had come to an end.
Cambell said he was unfamiliar with the details surrounding its cancellation.
“It would be unfair and inappropriate for me to comment on it,” he said.
“When I became minister, the program had already concluded and I’m unable to speak to the details of the reason as to why the program came to an end. I think in all fairness if you consider who would have been the minister at the time, that may be where you get more accurate information.”
Campbell portfolio was transferred in July 2018. The then minister Lanisha Rolle became the minister of youth, sports and culture.
Calls placed to Rolle were not returned.
RISE was an IDB and Ministry of Social Services joint effort with the government entering into a loan contract with the bank for a five-year period beginning August 2012 and ending in August 2017.
The conditional cash transfer component of the project was expected to consolidate social services assistance initiatives and introduced targeted goals for the beneficiary to demonstrate to continue receiving funds via a pre-paid car.
Following a review of the pilot program, the government said it appeared to have “self-destructed and suffered irreparable defects as a result of poor management.”
It also lamented its reported low performance outputs and failure to meet certain benchmarks in the timeline set by the IDB.
The report acknowledges the program had challenges, but said the termination of the program was due to the government’s policy decisions.
Yesterday, Griffin said yesterday that the cancelled program was a tragic missed opportunity, by the “people’s time government to do the right thing for the people”.
Griffin said: “It is a stain on their record before they even started and come talking about people’s time, maybe it ain’t the poor people, I don’t know.