Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite is defending Government’s heavy reliance on the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) for funding, saying “the NIS receives a significant return on investment”.
“It is not a free pass and it is certainly much better, probably 900 per cent better, than putting it with any commercial bank in Barbados,” said Brathwaite in response to concerns raised that contrary to the recommendation made in the 15th actuarial review, the NIS currently holds about 75 per cent of Government paper, compared to the recommended 50 per cent investment.
Just last week one of the island’s leading actuaries, Charles Herbert, cried shame on the authorities, saying the lack of transparency within the NIS was “worrying”.
“The National Insurance is our business. We must demand transparency and accountability and we must hold our representatives to account,” said Herbert , who is the founding principal of Eckler Limited.
He also warned that the social security scheme would need to undergo significant pension reform within the next decade in order to safeguard its future. Among the suggested changes was an increase in pensionable age and a hike in NIS contributions.
However, Brathwaite said while he was aware of concerns being raised about the level of NIS funding of Government, he was comforted by the fact that “if ever the NIS goes into financial difficulty it is the Government who is going to have to step up to the plate, and if you accept that then you should accept that there is no need for this red herring that people raise from time to time about the NIS investing in Government”.
The Attorney General also said he preferred to see NIS funds invested in Government and various projects on the island instead of in overseas companies that may fail “and let some person who doesn’t look like me carry away the money.
In such circumstances Brathwaite said “we don’t get much of a return on our investment”.
He was addressing the official opening of the Old Male Barracks and Gym at the Central Police Station on Monday, for which the NIS provided funding to the tune of $2.2 million in the form of investment.
While promising that a number of similar projects were in the pipeline, Brathwaite said he would welcome any future NIS investment.
Deputy Chairman of the National Insurance Board Wismar Greaves told the gathering that the NIS was pleased with the refurbishment of the Old Barrack, which is the second project the NIS has invested in under its “citizens security financial scheme”.
“We have a lot of other buildings around here that as we look around at these buildings and we see the space and the types of buildings they are we wonder if the same couldn’t be done with those buildings as occurred here.
“We are wonderfully happy with this development,” Greaves added.