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Parliament passes Act with aim of eliminating hunger by 2020

Parliament passes Act with aim of eliminating hunger by 2020

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Parliament last Wednesday, passed into law, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Zero Hunger Trust Fund Act 2016 in furtherance of the pledge by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government that by 2020, “no man, no woman, no child would go to bed hungry at nights.”

In his Budget address on Monday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said the Zero Hunger Trust Fund (ZHTF) will support the multi-faceted efforts needed {{more}}to eliminate hunger in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and establish a model approach that can be replicated across the Caribbean.

The ZHTF is also central to the draft National Zero Hunger Action Plan that has been produced by officials across government ministries in accordance with a written Policy Declaration (including programmatic elements) on the subject by the Prime Minister.

Gonsalves said an Inter-Ministerial Committee has been established under the Joint Chairmanship of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Economic Planning and Sustainable Development, with the Secretariat residing in the Office of the Director of Planning.

Additionally, the Ministry of Social Development has provided from its database, the names, addresses, and other relevant particulars of each of the approximately 3,000 persons whom it considers to be in indigence and hunger.

The estimated cost of the overall Plan has been put at $10 million per year and will be sourced from the Consolidated Fund, a special levy on telecommunications, grants from local, regional, and international organisations, donations from individuals, and grants from friendly governments globally.

“I have already been in discussion on this matter personally with the Director General of FAO, the state authorities in Dubai, and an important charitable organisation based on Mustique. I have received pledges of support,” Gonsalves said during his Budget presentation.

“…Our government intends to begin work on the ZHTF immediately with whatever resources are at hand.”

“I intend to impose a levy of two per cent on mobile telephone calls and on international calls to be paid directly into the ZHTF in accordance with a specific statute law. This levy is estimated to raise $2.7million annually.”

The levy will come into effect from March 1, 2016.

The Prime Minister said he personally pledges one month of his net basic salary for the next five years to the ZHTF.

“In effect, I will be taking an 8.3 percent cut in my net annual salary for each of these five years to support the push towards Zero Hunger. In order to encourage contributors, especially businesses, to donate to the ZHTF I intend to amend the Income Tax Act to enable contributors to treat the contribution as a tax deductible expense for the assessment of taxes to be paid. I will not myself take advantage of this amendment in respect of my contribution.”

The ZHTF is designed to achieve the following major objectives: Ascertain the precise extent of hunger in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Ensure that the specific circumstances or condition of each person afflicted by indigence or hunger is addressed appropriately and successfully; Establish action-oriented programmes in education and training; health and wellness; housing; employment and productive work; and the strengthening of social safety nets; and make sure that the targeted beneficiaries are transformed into self-sufficient and self-sustaining human beings.

Trustees of the ZHTF will be drawn from public servants, professionals, other esteemed personalities at home or abroad, and persons drawn from civil society organisations, inclusive of charitable entities. The Prime Minister however assured the public that none of the trustees of the ZHTF will be politicians or political activists.

In 1996, the Kairi Consultants of Trinidad and Tobago found that general poverty in St Vincent and the Grenadines stood at 37.5 percent of the population and indigence was at 25.7 percent of the population. By 2008-2009, the same group of Consultants assessed that general poverty had fallen to 30.0 percent of the population and indigence had dropped sharply to 2.9 poverty of the population.

Similarly in 1995, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations assessed that 22 percent of the population were undernourished; by 2012, the FAO’s assessment was that undernourishment had decreased markedly to 3.5 percent of the population.

In September 2015, at the United Nations, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and all other nations globally, signed on to the achieving of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030; the SDGs replace the MDGs of the earlier fifteen-year period, 2000 to 2015.

In October 2015, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, and Rural Transformation introduced a motion in Parliament to establish, in accordance with a FAO proposal, a bi-partisan Parliamentary Front Against Hunger. This motion was unanimously accepted by Parliament.

The ULP incorporated the SDGs, inclusive of the goal to end Hunger, as central to its policies and programmes in its Manifesto for the 2015 General Elections. Further, the ULP pledged to get to Zero Hunger in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by 2020, not 2030, as prescribed in the SDGs.

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