Mr Palm's speech on the launch of the preliminary data of the study: “Reform of social assistance: From survival to investment in poverty reduction” on 29 September 2011
There are rich people and there are poor people. This is a sad fact. People receiving social assistance will remain poor. Of course, we hope that the assistance will help them to live a decent life and eventually lift themselves out of poverty.
But there are no rich or poor children. All children are born the same. All children have similar qualities. All children are entitled to fully develop their potential, to the best of their own abilities and aspirations.
And while all children are inherently equal, there are children who happen to live in a family who is poor and children who live in a family that is rich. Children have no choice, of being born to family who is poor or a family who is rich. One of the fundamental rights and principles in any modern society is that every child should have the same opportunities to fully develop to the best of its ability. This is not only good for the individual child. It is also good for the entire society, if the same opportunities are provided to all children.
As the findings of the study show, the same opportunities cannot yet be realized. It will be a long process, through social assistance or otherwise, to fully eradicate poverty. Even if we together succeed to minimize poverty, there always will be a highest income quintile and a lowest income quintile. This is inevitable. But we CAN achieve that children have the same opportunities to develop, regardless whether they live in a family who is poor, or a family who is rich. Regardless whether a child is born to a family from the richest quintile, or from a family in the lowest income quintile, society can ensure that children are healthy, have enough nutritious food, and learn something useful from their early days through school.
The study that is being launched today sheds more light on what is needed to achieve this. One of the findings is that social assistance (ndhima ekonomike, or cash assistance) alone is not going to ensure that all children are healthy, have enough to eat and learn to reach their potential. In order to achieve this, health, nutrition, education and other services or packages must directly and preferentially go to children who need it most. The health sector, nutrition, the education sector and protection services must take a part of the burden and part of the costs to ensure that all children can fully develop to their potential. Cash alone may not do the trick.
I trust that the study will be a useful input into the on-going debate on social assistance reform.