Barbados might as well shut down its educational institutions if its best brains cannot solve the National Insurance Scheme’s challenges.
And Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Senator Jepter Ince, believes a lot of uncertainty in the minds of some Barbadians about the NIS was due to political misinformation spread by the Barbados Labour Party.
Ince, who is a former NIS chairman and was the agency’s first investment manager, said fears about the fund were unfounded, as he contributed to debate on the National Insurance and Social Security (Amendment) Bill, 2013 in the Upper House today.
“If we do not have the brains with the all the Masters degrees that we produce at university, all the PhD’s, all the ACCAs and we cannot chart a course to effectively and efficiently manage the NIS programmes then we can shut all the academic institutions down in Barbados and go home…,” he said.
“Persons do have concerns, but for political purposes there are those who would try to create an environment of fear that this administration is misusing the NIS funds and that in this time of a recession government is depending too heavily on the NIS.
“In 2005 the Barbados Labour Party had a deficit of $239 million and they removed $141 million from the National Insurance Fund in time of economic growth, in time of VAT … so what is the outcry about the abuse,” he asked, noting that there were times when about 70 per cent of all NIS investments were in government paper under the former Barbados Labour Party administration. The Democratic Labour Party spokesman urged Barbadians not to be sidetracked by people getting “carried away looking for a political advantage”.
“There is no political advantage with the National Insurance Fund, it belongs to the people of Barbados and it’s a national issue. Let all of us join hands, let us work together to ensure that the National Insurance Fund remains viable,” he said.
“So that our children and our grandchildren can enjoy a Barbados that is socially and financially viable, a Barbados with a political stability. Persons who are unemployed can still get their benefits, persons who are injured, persons who suffer strokes and other health challenges can still get their invalidity or disability benefits.
“That is still happening today. It is going to happen in the next 30 seconds, it is going to continue in the next five minutes, it is going to continue in the next hour, it is going to continue tomorrow morning at eight o’clock when the NIS opens. I can guarantee you that benefits will be paid, pensioners are going to get their pensions,” he added.
Ince urged the country to be proud of the NIS instead of “this political nitpicking that I am hearing so that you can get a Kodak moment or get a big write up in a newspaper somewhere”.
The official also said Barbadians should not be overly concerned that NIS funds were being invested in non traditional areas.
“There are times when your portfolio is going to be over weighted and there are times when it is going to be under weighted. If your investments are limited there are times when you have to over weight your portfolio, or if you don’t over weight that portfolio with equities, bonds, treasury notes, treasury bills then you are going to be over weighted with cash if you can’t find the investments,” he said. (SC)