Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley is convinced that Barbados is nowhere near a crisis situation where the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is concerned.
She gave this assurance this afternoon at a press briefing at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, which examined issues related to the fund and comprehensive efforts under way to reform the NIS.
Ms. Mottley asserted that the consultations being undertaken now were to ensure that those who would eventually reach pensionable age in the future would also benefit.
“We are not in crisis, but we want to avoid a crisis 15 years from now. That is therefore going to mean that those of us who have the responsibility for taking decisions can do so at the earliest possible opportunity. There are countries in the Caribbean that are five or six years away from the moment that we are talking about. We don’t want that to happen to us,” the Prime Minister said.
Pointing out that early, timely intervention was critical, she stressed the consultations were about the country and its people and not about the Government, any party or even the NIS alone, as an institution.
She also emphasized that a strong Barbados required a strong system of solidarity, and reminded all that the NIS represented such a system. Ms. Mottley recalled that it was the International Labour Organization (ILO) that aided the region’s thrust to put social security systems in place in the 1960s, and reiterated that Barbados was not doing badly.
Prime Minister Mottley noted the United States of America was in a situation where its Government is contributing every single year to keep its social security afloat. Explaining, she said: “The numbers for that is about 0.7 per cent of GDP. If I were to equate that to Barbados, it would mean that we would be putting in, at the moment, about $70 to S75 million a year in order to keep our National Insurance afloat. We are not doing that nor are we there. And, we don’t want ever to be there, hence these early discussions.”
She assured the public that the NIS was in a position to satisfy all claims made on it legitimately, today.
Pointing to a diagram on a screen, Ms. Mottley said: “The top two lines show 2007 and 2008, and in 2008, Barbados had 128,204 contributors to the NIS. One hundred and twenty-eight thousand, two hundred and four, that was perhaps at its height. It is anticipated in the actuarial reports…that in this year, 2022, that we would have 137,000 people. Regrettably, look at where we are at the bottom of the screen; we now have, for sure, at the end of last year, 105,585, with a further projected decline to 104,000. So, we are effectively 33,000 short of where we wanted to be, or we anticipated that we would be.”
While reiterating the mantra ‘many hands make light work’, the Prime Minister noted there was the inclusion of as many groups and individuals as possible to inform the decisions to be made about the Scheme.
Meanwhile, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Third Sector, Colin Jordan, disclosed that Government would soon be soliciting written submissions from the public and he urged the participation of all, noting suggestions could be sent to the newly created email address email@example.com.
He also revealed that town hall meetings would be convened to gain as much input as possible from the public and they could also look out for suggestion boxes at post offices in every parish. Mr. Jordan added that a suggestion box would be placed at the Frank Walcott Building for staff to make their suggestions.