While the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is thankful it was included in discussions pertaining to the future of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), its president Dr Ronnie Yearwood said the party will need more time to look at the report on the NIS’ current dilemma.
“We want to see the full report so we can see the real state of affairs and what options are available for the Government, and there has been no indication as to what those options are and what Government will choose,” he told reporters after Prime Minister Mia Mottley led a press conference on Wednesday afternoon on the state of the NIS.
At that press conference, deputy chairman of the NIS Rawdon Adams disclosed that proposals on NIS reform would be submitted by the end of August, following the completion of ongoing consultations.
“Once I see that report, I will take it to our members and we will make our recommendations after that. I understand the report was laid in Parliament last night. It is one thing to have initial conversations but as a country, we definitely need more than three weeks to really engage with this and chart a way forward,” Dr Yearwood.
He stressed that the issue of pension reform was too serious to be seen as a “one-off” thing, and measures should be implemented to ensure the fund does not find itself in the same situation again.
“Pension reform is not about right now but about our children, your children, and for the older people among us, their grandchildren. It must be an ongoing process within the NIS, so we need to build response mechanisms into the system and try to examine it every 20 or so years to see whether any changes may be required,” the DLP leader suggested.
“The NIS as it stands now is over 50 years old and some of what we have faced in the world recently is nothing that Errol Barrow and the other founding fathers would have foreseen. We recognise the scheme was successful but now, we may have to look at matters such as universality; does everyone need it? Can we give some people the choice to opt out of it? And how will that affect the scheme in terms of people paying into it?”
Dr Yearwood noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had demonstrated that “we may need to look more closely at unemployment and sickness benefits”.
He added: “The nature of work has changed as well since the scheme was formed. It was initially designed for a world where people worked from 9 to 5, retired in their 60s and then lived out the rest of their years. Now, people are staying in the workforce longer, overlapping their children in some instances, and their needs are different. So, all of this must be taken into consideration when we are looking at reforming the NIS.”