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Wednesday, June 07, 2006 

Antigua takes lead in regional social reform
Wednesday June 07 2006

by Nikisha Smith

Antigua & Barbuda will be the host of the first regional meeting of all ministers of social transformation, who are working toward harmonising the region’s social policies and services.

From 14 - 15 June, the group will be meeting to develop an action plan that will be delivered to Caricom heads.

The policies are intended to complement the policies laid out in the Caricom Single Market agreement, scheduled to come on stream by the end of June.

The theme of the meeting will be, “High-level ministerial dialogue: Social security and sustainable social development in the Caribbean”.

This information was announced in a press conference held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Social Transformation on Tuesday.

Present were the Minister of Social Transformation Hilson Baptiste, and members of the conference planning committee.

A request for such a meeting of all social ministers was made by Minister Baptiste last year, during the millennium development goals meeting at the Jolly Harbour Resort.

Almira Henry, member of the organising committee of the conference, said ECLAC (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) had then decided to help in sponsoring the meeting.

Henry said the purpose of the conference was for social planners and the social development experts to hear the ministers’ point of view of what were the serious social ills in each respective territory.

An action plan will then be formulated for widespread dissemination.

The result is that each country would be guided by a common identical social development action programme.

Baptiste insisted that technical personnel would be invited to the meeting so that by the end of the two days, a document would be ready to be distributed to the respective countries. “I don’t want a talk shop. I want action,” he commented.

He expects it to be a conference with a difference aimed at raising the standard of social policies in the region.

Speakers will include Professor Karl Theodore of UWI, St. Augustine Campus, speaking on health sector reforms, and Director of Barbados National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Ian Carrington, speaking on approaches to social security reforms in the Caribbean.

There will be representation from the Caribbean Development Bank, UN ECLAC, United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), as well as representation from all member states of Caricom.

The conference is being sponsored by UN ECLAC, the government of Antigua & Barbuda, and UNDP.

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