Government’s assurances about the National Insurance Scheme’s viability are inadequate and those in charge need to tell Barbadians how it intends to deal with the NIS’s myriad of challenges including potential exhausting demands for unemployment benefits.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party also wants the current administration to provide evidence that the state’s reliance on the national social security scheme is not burdensome. BLP lead spokesman in the Upper House, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, raised the concerns today as members debated and approved the National Insurance and Social Security (Amendment) Bill, 2013.
“We need to know what is happening with the National Insurance Fund… We were told that it was in reasonably good shape (but) we all know what is happening in Barbados,” Walcott said.
“We have heard the minister speak about the contributions, we have heard her speak about the difficulties so we need to see what has been happening between then and now and were the fund is.
“We have heard about the state of the Unemployment Fund and … there was a deficit of $3.7 million in May 2013 versus a deficit of $8.3 million in May 2012 and we were told that the total Unemployment Fund stands at $438 million. So if the trend continues you are speaking about 25 months that that fund could be exhausted,” he stated.
The official said Government needed to say what was being planned “per chance that could happen”, adding that “every month there is a deficit and there must be some plan put in place to maintain the viability of the Unemployment Fund”.
Walcott also said both the BLP and Barbadians generally “need the assurance … that the actuarial review will be available very shortly and we need explanations as to why the various reports that we were accustomed to are no longer available”.
“In the last actuarial report a number of points were made and … the major one (was) that the biggest challenge to the National Insurance Fund in coming years would be the ability of the Fund to find suitable investment opportunities,” he pointed out.
“But it also went on to caution that the National Insurance Board should limit additional lending to Government to amounts that would not allow the percentage of the fund now held in Government securities, and that time they said it was 57 per cent, to grow any further. And I am curious as to where it is now.”
The senator also wondered what had become of promised funds, including the Tertiary Education Fund to assisting in financing institutions including the University of the West Indies and Barbados Community College, and other funds related to hotel refurbishment, energy efficiency, and food production. (SC)