Government Senator Gregory Nicholls is warning that correcting the issues facing the National Insurance Fund will, sooner rather than later, call for Barbadians to have serious discussions about population growth.
According to him, this and not compliance or governance is the real problem with the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
During his contribution to debate on the National Insurance and Social Security (Amendment) Bill and the Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2023 in the Upper House on Wednesday, Nicholls maintained that the $250 million gap between the Fund’s expenditure and income would not be closed by dealing with compliance alone.
“Yes, governance, compliance and all of these issues are important because we are managing a system that is important for everyone. But let us not get sidetracked about what is the real problem, the elephant in the room. I remember sitting in the other place as a visitor and Dame Billie Miller being ridiculed for suggesting that it is time that we look at immigration to solve some of the demographic population challenges that we have in Barbados,” he said.
As it relates to the Government’s planned solutions, the attorney-at-law dismissed any claims that the Mia Mottley-led administration was “wicked” for the proposed measures.
On the contrary, he deemed the measures the most “palatable” for the country and criticised the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government for what he alleged was a refusal to act on the danger signs. Nicholls claimed that the DLP instead “washed their hands of this issue” and left NIS so “somebody else would have to deal with it”.
“I find it a little rich that certain comments are being made about the Government’s rush to deal with these issues. There is a perspective that guides and differentiates the Barbados Labour Party in its approach to governance – we would see the problems and we would promise the people that we will face it and fix it. And that is how we have adopted an approach to the governance of this country. We will bear the criticisms of this.
“These are the hallmarks of good public policy when we look at these measures contemplated in this. The Government did not choose to defer benefits to people immediately. Over an 11-year span – four years in the first instance for the first five/six months and then that adjustment would happen over the 11-year period –, not to have a knee-jerk reaction . . . . So, the Government has chosen the most palatable way to secure the sustainability of the national insurance system. So, I find that the debate that has occurred in other places, to me, is quite comical,” Senator Nicholls added. (KC)