INCREASING funding to Cepep is part of government’s social support programme and is just as important as awarding a scholarship to the brightest child in the class, according to the Prime Minister.
Dr Rowley came out swinging in defence of government’s contentious decision to increase spending on the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme Company (Cepep) even as it reduced allocations to education.
Speaking on the CNC3 Morning Brew programme on Tuesday, host Natalee Legore drew the comparisons between enhancements to Cepep and reduction in the award of scholarships from 400 to 100 and a $30m cut to the GATE programme.
She said her viewers shared the opinion that education was the key to getting out of poverty but increasing funding to the make-work-programme was keeping people in a certain place.
Rowley said scholarships were not reaching the ones with the greatest need. He said in spite of this reduction, 400 students who matriculate but do not have the means will now benefit through the bursary system. “The end result is, we are looking at 500 students and more equitable distribution,” Rowley said.
He asked people not to be judgemental of the Cepep worker, the mother of three whose pay packet ensures her children get fed. “People who are putting food on the table and keeping their children fed are important to the government.” He said it is part of the government’s strong social support system to those most vulnerable and in need.
“Because of the pandemic and the decline in the economy these people are there in large numbers and therefore the need to have a social programme is important as it is to give a scholarship to the brightest child in the classroom.”
The Ministry of Finance Draft Estimates of Recurrent Expenditure, laid in Parliament as part of the 2021 budget documents, showed that government spent $50 million more on Cepep -$400m instead of $350m budgeted for the last year. The programme is to receive an increased subvention for 2021.
“We have not abandoned the children in the class. We have not abandoned the children whose parents require a programme like CEPEP to ensure that the children they are looking after get food.”
Rowley said their earnings are not saved but spent and that helps to keep the economic engine of the country alive.
He said Professor Theodore who sat in on their first meeting after the pandemic was declared was very firm that if government did not intervene immediately people will go hungry.