Leader of the Alliance Party for Progress (APP), Bishop Joseph Atherley has called for more frequent reviews and audits of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
His reaction has come following the warning yesterday that the National Insurance Fund was in danger of being depleted by 2034 if speedy action was not taken.
The former Opposition Leader took issue with the haphazard manner in which the finances of the NIS were seemingly being managed.
“You need to have frequent reviews with respect to a fund like that, bearing in mind all of the dynamics at play. You should never be caught off guard by trends with respect to the projections on NIS, especially vis-à-vis pensions,” Atherley told Barbados TODAY.
“I would think that there would be frequent reviews of the fund and that a long time would not be allowed to elapse before you look at it. If you had a review in 2004, the Barbadian economy has significantly changed since 2004, so you shouldn’t be waiting till too late to look at that.”
During a nationally broadcast presentation, actuary Derek Osborne revealed that the NIS had experienced challenges in providing annual audited statements.
“The NIS as an organisation has faced some challenges in the last few years with their systems and their delivery of service and also their ability to produce annual audited statements on time. Just like actuarial reviews are due every three years, every year the NIS is supposed to produce financial statements and reports to the minister who will lay them in Parliament.
“These are delayed and the good news is that work has been done to get these completed soon and tabled in Parliament soon as well,” Osborne said during the broadcast.
Atherley also suggested that the 12 to 15-year timeline given for the fund to be depleted might actually be less.
He said when all factors were taken into consideration, especially the economic difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NIS might not have as much time as expected.
“From what the actuary is projecting, we have maybe 12 – 15 years, the truth of the matter is that maybe so from a mathematical or actuarial point of view, but when you put into the mix what is happening with respect to the Barbados economy and the cost of living, that 12 or 15 years could in actuality be eight or 10 years,” Atherley charged.
“You have to look at what happens with respect to how Government manages debt going forward… We’re still carrying a huge debt load and you have not been able to establish any strong economic growth platform, and if you put in the mix some pandemic or natural disaster, then you have problems.”
Atherley said it was critical that the right solution is found to the problem, otherwise Barbadians might find themselves in serious hardship.
“If we don’t get it right then that will happen in some areas from now. The pension benefits that we are enjoying may disappear. If we don’t get it right there are so many things that we can expect to follow in a negative way,” he said.
“That is why I am saying that where we should be is discussing in a genuine and mature, responsible way, what are the solutions and what are the policy options that we want to go for.”