NPL di­vest­ment ap­proved ... but no im­me­di­ate changes for school meals

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Tameka Gor­don Busi­ness Reporter Email en­tries to: busi­ness@glean­erjm.com.

ACONSULTANT has been in the field as­sess­ing du­pli­ca­tions in the Gov­ern­ment’s SchoolFeed­ing Pro­gramme, the SFP, ac­cord­ing to ed­u­ca­tion sources.

It is meant to in­form an op­er­a­tional shake-up of the pro­gramme, based on doc­u­ments seen by Gleaner Busi­ness, but Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Ruel Reid has re­jected sug­ges­tions that a merger of the dif­fer­ent meal pro­grammes was un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

Reid, who has been in of­fice for just un­der nine months, also said he did not ap­prove the hir­ing of a con­sul­tant. But he did con­firm progress on the plans to di­vest state-owned Na­tional Prod­ucts Lim­ited.

“I am deny­ing any­thing about merger be­cause I have not com­mis­sioned any such study,” he said.

Stu­dents’ meals is one of the old­est and largest of the Gov­ern­ment’s so­cial safety-net pro­grammes and is spear­headed by the School Feed­ing Unit of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, which pro­vides re­sources to: pub­lic pri­mary and sec­ondary schools with meals pre­pared on site by those schools; the Early-Child­hood Com­mis­sion (ECC), which feeds ba­sic­school chil­dren; and the Govern­men­towned and op­er­ated break­fast and snack pro­duc­ing com­pany, Na­tional Prod­ucts Lim­ited (NPL).

NPL has been ap­proved for di­vest­ment by the Cabi­net, Reid told Gleaner Busi­ness last Tues­day.

Back in 2011, then Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion An­drew Holness, now Prime Min­is­ter, floated the idea of di­vest­ing the NPL as a cost-cut­ting mea­sure. At the time, NPL ran a deficit of $123 mil­lion, but it has now turned the Na­tional Bak­ing Com­pany 2nd an­nual A Ja­maican Made Christ­mas busi­ness show­case and pop-up shop­ping, Novem­ber 27-28, at The Ja­maica Pe­ga­sus ho­tel, 81 Knutsford Boule­vard, New Kingston, 10 a.m. kem­isha@mar­ket­meja.com

NOVEM­BER 28

Na­tional Com­mer­cial Bank Ja­maica 4th Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence, Novem­ber 28-29, at UWI Re­gional Head­quar­ters, Her­mitage Road, Kingston, 9:30 a.m. wilsonja@jncb.com

NOVEM­BER 29

UNDP/Bureau of Gen­der Af­fairs/Ja­maica Cham­ber of Com­merce launch of the Gen­der Equal­ity Seal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme, plus jazz and net­work­ing, at The Ja­maica Pe­ga­sus ho­tel, 81 Knutsford Boule­vard, New Kingston, 5:30 p.m. ken­isha.thom@undp.org

DE­CEM­BER 1

In­sti­tute of Char­tered Ac­coun­tants of Ja­maica an­nual awards ban­quet, at The cor­ner and has been mak­ing sur­pluses, to­talling more than $60 mil­lion in the last two years.

COST-SAV­ING MEA­SURE

“At some point, not in the next school year – prob­a­bly in the fol­low­ing year – cer­tainly, by the end of the new IMF (In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund) pro­gramme, we hope to di­vest that,” Reid said of the pri­vati­sa­tion plans for NPL. “It would be cheaper to give the schools the money than to pro­duce, then dis­trib­ute,” he said.

The min­istry it­self is also be­ing over­hauled, in keep­ing with the Gov­ern­ment’s goal of sep­a­rat­ing its pol­icy func­tions from op­er­a­tional mat­ters, Reid added.

“For a long time, the Ja­maica Pe­ga­sus ho­tel, 81 Knutsford Boule­vard, New Kingston. pub­re­la­tions@icaj.org

DE­CEM­BER 1

Tech Beach Re­treat, a global en­trepreneur­ship+tech­nol­ogy+ in­no­va­tion sum­mit, De­cem­ber 1-3, at Se­crets Re­sort, Mon­tego Bay. concierge@tech­beach.net

DE­CEM­BER 3

Ja­maica Broil­ers Group Lim­ited an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, at the Ja­maica Con­fer­ence Cen­tre, 14-20 Port Royal Street, Kingston 10 a.m.

DE­CEM­BER 3

C2W Mu­sic Lim­ited an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, at The Knutsford Court Ho­tel, 11 Ruthven Road, Kingston, 10:30 a.m.

DE­CEM­BER 6

YUTE Lim­ited/Fight for Peace em­ploy­ers fo­rum and lun­cheon, at The Ja­maica Pe­ga­sus ho­tel, 81 Knutsford Boule­vard, New Kingston, 12:30 p.m. ka­reenc@icd­group.net IMF has said to the Gov­ern­ment, we have too many en­ti­ties, (and) the Gov­ern­ment needs to rid it­self of things that are not part of the core busi­ness,” he said.

The plan to re­form the schoolfeed­ing pro­grammes ap­pear to pre­date Reid’s ap­point­ment as ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter.

A doc­u­ment posted on the min­istry’s web­site ti­tled the In­te­grated So­cial Pro­tec­tion and Labour Project, dated Fe­bru­ary 2016 – the Gov­ern­ment changed ad­min­is­tra­tions in March af­ter gen­eral elec­tion on Fe­bru­ary 25 of this year – deals with the “mod­erni­sa­tion of the School-Feed­ing Pro­gramme” as its fourth com­po­nent.

OPER­A­TIONALLY FRAG­MENTED

In its ra­tio­nale, the doc­u­ment notes that the meal pro­grammes are oper­a­tionally frag­mented, lead­ing to man­age­ment chal­lenges and “re­sult­ing in less-than-ef­fi­cient de­liv­ery”. “Re­sources avail­able to the pro­gramme are frag­mented in how it is [sic] dis­bursed and, there­fore, is [sic] not ef­fec­tively utilised,” it said. A con­sul­tant, su­per­vised by the In­te­grated So­cial Pro­tec­tion and Labour Project, and who, up to last week, has al­ready vis­ited sev­eral of the sites un­der the SFP, is to con­duct an in­depth anal­y­sis of all the pro­cesses and ac­tiv­i­ties, and de­ter­mine the gaps and over­laps in how the func­tions are car­ried out un­der ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments. The doc­u­ment said the con­sul­ta­tion would run for three months. “The find­ings from the anal­y­sis should be used to make rec­om­men­da­tions to strengthen the in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments of the SFP with a view to bring­ing all

op­er­a­tional mat­ters un­der one en­tity,” the project doc­u­ment said.

The con­sul­tant will, at the end, “pro­pose a model for gov­er­nance and man­age­ment for the SFP that re­flects an ef­fi­cient and har­monised ar­range­ment of ser­vice pro­vi­sion”.

Reid, how­ever, was adamant that no de­ci­sion has been taken re­gard­ing the SFP’s struc­ture.

“I have not made any de­ci­sion about any merger. As we speak, all the school-feed­ing pro­grammes that now ex­ist will con­tinue to ex­ist for the time be­ing un­til I have ar­tic­u­lated any other po­si­tion,” he said.

“If there is a con­sul­tant work­ing, that must be du­pli­cat­ing what was al­ready done be­cause the is­sue of look­ing at school feed­ing is some­thing that from the first deal we did in 2010 [with the IMF] was on the ta­ble,” he said.

The 2010 deal with the IMF col­lapsed in less than a year, but a new agree­ment, an ex­tended fund fa­cil­ity, was signed in 2013. This month, Ja­maica tran­si­tioned to a new ar­range­ment, re­ferred to as a pre­cau­tion­ary standby agree­ment.

BUSI­NESS EVENTS & PAR­TIES NOVEM­BER 27

DARIEN ROBERT­SON/ FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Ruel Reid

NOR­MAN GRINDLEY/ CHIEF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Nu­tri­tion Prod­ucts Lmited.

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