|Children need social protection|
The argument that our societies will remain unchanged has no loyalists in this country or elsewhere in the world. All societies change because of the need to or because of the political will exercised by its citizenry and political leadership. Others change unseemingly because of the innovation of technology and global movement of capital in all corners of the world.
The challenge is fixed on the ability of the people to adopt to these changes. In so doing societies must develop visions, strategic plans, and road maps to take them down the road of progress. So often this means making sacrifices in order to fit into the scheme of things.
The ethical question that needs consideration is who and what do societies sacrifice? In PNG societies I can think of three groups of people as an example: the disable, children, and the elderly. In our effort to stay on the road of progress we have mishandled their case.
It is encouraging to see the Department for Community Development leading a Task Force with membership drawn from line agencies to develop a Social Protection Policy to address this case.
During her term as the Minister responsible for the Department for Community Development Lady Dame Carol Kidu and the Secretary Mr. Joseph Klapat set up a Secretariat to research, coordinate, and facilitate the development of the Social Protection Policy. The Secretariat is led by Mr.George Wrondimi as its principle researcher.
In the Second Draft Report Lady Kidu outlines the National Government’s decision and direction that was the focus of a high level consultative forum organized in August 2011, involving all stake holders, provincial administrators, and development partners. A National Executive Council decision of 26th June 2009 allowed the setting up a National Task Force to investigate and report on a policy model for Social Protection in Papua New Guinea.”
A National Taskforce on Social Protection (NTSP) was formed in 2010, comprising of the Departments of Community Development (Team Leader), Provincial & Local Level Government Affairs, Education, Health, National Planning & Monitoring, Treasury, Labour & Industrial Relations, and Agriculture& Livestock. The Task Force is led by Mr. Klapat as the Chairman.
“Many of you may be asking the question: Why do we have to think, discuss, or introduce Social Protection in PNG? In other parts of the world where the impact of over population, poor land fertility, droughts, and high unproductive unemployment is more pronounce and visible, it may be easy to convince both policy makers and the public that Social Protection programs or interventions should be a priority. In Papua New Guinea our situation may not be as visible for various reasons,” Lady Kidu cautioned.
The truth is as Lady Kidu said: “The wantok system or our traditional social safety net system does have limitations. Probably for those living in villages, the system may support them in times of need. For those in large low income households in urban centers, life can be very difficult. Wantok system as we know can drag entire households into poverty, especially when there are more people depending on one bread winner in the household. Similarly, the elderly and persons with disables in low income households will become poorer as well.”
“It is important to emphasize here that formal Social Protection in PNG is not about a dole system or institutions to remove and keep our disadvantage family members away from their love ones,” according to Lady Kidu.
“Instead, it is about relieving and empowering the struggling households to maintain a reasonable quality of live with the state intervening to support the unproductive members of the household like the elderly and children. They will still remain within the households and under the care of their extended family members and caregivers.”
The Social Safety Nets (SSN) is the recommended model for Social Protection in PNG. According to Lady Kidu this model is recommended based on the existing practices in many countries in Africa, South America, Middle East, India, and South East Asia. Based on empirical evidence available, many countries in the above regions have taken the bold decision to introduce Social Safety Net Programs as a major poverty reduction strategy. They have been able to assist their people cope with man-made risks such as financial crisis or natural calamities such as droughts. Many of these countries have experienced improved health and education outcomes for women, children, youth, and improved income and asset level of poor households.
The SSN model is better suited than other models to PNG’s current situation. It is a typical entry point that countries chose for developing a Social Protection system for the population as a whole.The safety nets model is an integrated approach comprising elements of our rich traditional practices as well as some aspects of the introduced formal systems.
In support of the then Minister, Secretary Klapat said: “I also echo the Minister’s call by inviting all the major stakeholders and development partners to jointly make this endeavor a reality for the many marginalised and disadvantaged members of our communities.”
Secretary Joseph Klapat is all praise for the Task Force: “All the eight members representing the respective departments saw a genuine need to co-operate and make the best of their professional inputs into the final report, which will then form the basis of a national policy on Social Protection for Papua New Guinea… I agree with the Minister’s statement that Social Protection or Social Safety Nets …will add a new dimension to enhance the government’s overall efforts towards reducing poverty, thus contributing to the realization of the nation’s Vision 2050.”
The Final Report on Social Protection will be submitted to the National Executive Council for consideration this year,