Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has accused the Freundel Stuart administration of standing on the sidelines for months while the Unemployment Benefit Fund fell deeper into financial crisis.
Mottley leveled the accusation in the wake of news that the fund was in serious trouble, taking in a fraction of the millions of dollars it was paying out, particularly following Government’s decision to retrench 3 000 public servants.
She charged that the administration had been aware, for more than two years, that its actions to extend unemployment benefits for 22 months, as well as the establishment of a $10 million training fund, would have depleted its resources.
Mottley said she had also warned that the fund was in peril from as far back as last October.
“The NIB [National Insurance Board] was collecting $2.5 million on average monthly while paying out $5 million. As every Barbadian knows, this is unsustainable and a recipe for disaster. The Government has known about this crisis for months and that this situation had to be resolved as a matter of urgency . . . especially if confidence is to be maintained in the NIB and our social security scheme,” she said in a statement.
While pledging to do all that was “necessary and legal” to assist with the replenishment of the fund, the Opposition Leader said the necessary supplementary and legal amendments must be brought to Parliament as the first order of business in 2015.
Referring to a proposal to shift the contribution rate of employers to both the Severance Payments Fund and the Unemployment Benefit Fund, Mottley said the recommendation has her full support”.
“There will be no additional burden to employers in respect of payroll costs, nor by extension further job losses,” the Opposition Leader stated.
Efforts to reach chairman of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Dr Justin Robinson were unsuccessful.
However, sources close to the NIS confirmed to Barbados TODAY that the decision to extend the unemployment benefit period from 26 to 40 weeks for almost two years, and moving $10 million to a retraining fund had contributed to the current state of the Unemployment Benefit Fund.
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