Government will slice off half of the money earmarked for the National Insurance Scheme’s Unemployment Benefits Fund to retrain public workers under the planned Retooling and Empowering and Retraining and Enfranchising (RE RE) programme come January 2019.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley made this revelation on Tuesday as she addressed the second annual Bitt blockchain conference at the Hilton Resort under the theme Central Bank Meets Blockchain: From the Ground Up.
Mottley said the new $30 million training fund, which forms part of a wider shakeup of Government entities, was to make Barbados “fit for purpose” and she was hoping to get the full backing of the Social Partnership.
“We have committed to mobilize our training levy and as of January we hope that portion that is now going to the unemployment benefit fund will be split in half; that comes from a healthy severance payment fund,” said Mottley.
“We hope that our social partners will work with us in this way, such that we can commit $30 million a year for each of the next four years on the most comprehensive retraining of Barbadian workers and professionals that this country has ever seen,” she said.
Mottley did not make mention of the $10 million Unemployment Training Fund that was set up under the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration for unemployed individuals to use for training opportunities through agencies such as the Barbados Vocational Training Board, the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology.
But Mottley has said that as her Barbados Labour Party administration restructures state-owned enterprises, workers would have to be “retrained, empowered, retooled and enfranchised” under the new fund to begin in January next year.
Stating that this was in an effort to make Barbados “globally fit for purpose and the number one choice for most”, Mottley added that the transformation process would also require the use of technology “where it matters”.
“To that extent, having spent the last three-and-a-half months on the stopping of bleeding I move to the next phase, which is the beginning of the transformation. The training will be done parallel but the deconstruction and reconstruction starts now – whether it is the land registry with respect to how we treat to property, whether it is the multi-purpose national ID card which has been long talked about… whether it is health . . . whether it is simply for the issuance of legal certificates, education certificates, corporate certificates – this country will now march boldly into the 21st century leap frogging who we must leap frog in order to be allowing us to be globally fit for purpose at the end of the next four years. And I trust and play that most of this will not take four years to do,” she told the conference.
Under the RE RE programme, which forms part of the wider Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan, some state-owned enterprises are to be privatized, others merged and some placed into a private-public sector partnership.
While Government is insisting that the number of public servants to be placed on the breadline would not amount to as many as 4,000, the Government’s economic advisers have suggested that at least 1,000 public sector workers may lose their jobs.