Barbadians are concerned about the state of the $4 billion National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
When Barbados TODAY took to the streets to get feedback on Wednesday’s announcement that the scheme could be depleted in as few as 12 years, several persons admitted they were worried, while others blamed reckless spending of the NIS’s funds for the stark reality that the country is facing today.
Winfield Clarke charged that successive governments have dipped their hands in the NIS to finance projects and written off millions in debt for big businesses, leading to the current concerns over the viability of the fund.
Clarke said, in his opinion, it is not about drawdowns of pensioners, it is about abusing and mismanaging NIS funds by both Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and Barbados Labour Party (BLP) governments.
“I am prepared to sue the state if they disadvantage me in any way for money that I have already worked for and which they deducted during my working days,” Clarke said.
During a press conference on Wednesday, which was broadcast live, actuary Derek Osborne told the nation that based on the contributions being paid into the scheme and the range of benefits being paid out, the situation is untenable.
Osborne suggested that Barbadians must find a solution to the major issues facing the NIS which he said is now relying on savings accumulated over the last 55 years to help pay benefits.
The expert also outlined that the population is declining. SInce 2017, he said, there have been more deaths each year than births, leading to natural increase in the population being negative at this time.
Eighty-four-year-old Keith Walke said he is not surprised about the development at the NIS, considering that it was being mismanaged for sometime now.
He believes that the NIS funds have been overused to finance projects.
“When we had ordinary people as politicians we were alright. But you see these people that got them law degrees they know too much.
“That is why we will never be any better in this country until we get back to where we were before, because them people know it all. It is trouble down the road unless something very serious happens and very necessary steps are taken. Twelve years ain’t far from now,” Walke said.
Tony St Hill, 78, described the news as most unfortunate for the country. He admitted that his heart “hurts” for his four grandchildren and the future generation, when he thinks about how the depletion of the NIS fund could affect their future.
St Hill suggested that it is the poor who will suffer if they are unable to access the funds in the NIS because there are none.
“All of those politicians, their bread is buttered, Two terms and they are going to get their pension. We got to work for years and then no pension, or reduced pension, or uncertain pension, that is hard. I wouldn’t like to be in it. Thank God I am not, but you still got to think of your fellow man,” St Hill said.
St Hill added that while there have been calls for Barbadians to do what is necessary to increase the birthrate, it must be considered that the rising cost of living makes it challenging for persons to raise children in Barbados today.
Yesterday’s broadcast also noted that self-employed people were at the greatest risk of having no income when they retire because they have not contributed to the NIS.
Elizabeth Spooner, who is self-employed, said she is expecting to begin receiving pension within the next 12 years, but the recent news that the NIS is in trouble, has left her scared. She said that she is not sure about the Government’s assurance that the development is nothing to worry about.
“To be honest with you, self-employed people don’t have as many benefits as the people who are working. If we don’t work we wouldn’t get paid and if we don’t pay in contributions we wouldn’t have anything. But not only that, for us to put in contributions, if we are sick, we still don’t get anything.
“They are talking about fewer self-employed people paying national insurance, but we are scared because we don’t get benefits like the others,” Spooner said, adding that younger people may not be getting children at this time because of a tough job market and a challenging local financial climate.
A young Dwayne Clarke said he has already begun putting systems in place so that he would not have to depend on the NIS. Clarke said he has a pension plan, in addition to life and medical insurance with an insurance company which he said he is hoping and praying does not collapse. He suggested that other young people follow his lead and put their own pension plans in place.