MCO Barbados’ Joint Programme (JP) for Integrated Social Protection has been focused on facilitating universal adaptive social protection in Barbados, Saint Lucia and across the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), with the aim of fostering resilience and reducing structural inequality and poverty. Over the first six months of the programme, much progress has been made.
The JP was launched “virtually” with Ministers from leading institutions in Barbados and Saint Lucia, an OECS Commission representative, as well as broad attendance from governments, the donor community and International Financial Institutions. In Barbados, personnel were hired to conduct a study on the impact of public investments in subsidized day care services on social and labour market outcomes, as well as to provide technical support and perform a fiscal space analysis to promote gender responsiveness throughout the JP. Similarly, in Saint Lucia, an expert was recruited to initiate policy support towards mainstreaming gender. Joint meetings have taken place between the JP, World Bank and Government of Saint Lucia, leading to maximized synergies through the World Bank Human Capital Resilience Project (of which US $9 million has been dedicated to social protection reform). The OECS commission has developed the concept and drafted the framework for its Regional Social Inclusion and Social Protection Strategy.
The JP has also repurposed up to 20% of funding for COVID-related activities. Agencies in Barbados have begun the recruitment process for a rapid assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on social protection programming, and assisted the National Insurance Scheme of Barbados with the modeling of COVID-19 scenarios in order to improve its Management Information Systems and assess the pandemic’s impact on social protection financing. In Saint Lucia, agencies have supported COVID-19 social assistance expansion, initiated research on the pandemic’s impact on women workers, and contracted for microsimulation modeling activity to illuminate the impact of COVID-19 on child/household poverty.
The current global health crisis has increased the relevance of using social protection in response to shocks, as seen by the governments of Barbados and Saint Lucia turning to social protection measures to mitigate the damage inflicted. Indeed, JP implementation in MCO Barbados has begun with great promise.