While Government is acting now to avoid the depletion of the National Insurance Fund, Barbadians should not worry that they are going to lose any of their benefits “overnight”.
Deputy Chairman of the National Insurance Board, Rawdon Adams, gave this assurance while speaking at a press briefing about the future of the Fund, this afternoon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael. He said it would take another 12 to 19 years before the Fund was depleted and that’s why it was important to act now to save it.
“The fund itself at $3.9 billion is nearly five times what the current expenditures on benefits are. It’s not a fund that’s going to fall over. Nobody is going to lose their benefits overnight because of what we’re talking about here. We’re not kicking the can down the road. We have time to fix this. We are approaching it methodically inclusive of everybody that we speak to, we want them to participate in it,” Mr. Adams explained.
He further noted that an ageing population, a declining workforce and slow economic growth rates were some of the major factors contributing to the depletion of the Fund. He added that when the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) was started in 1967, there was a strong, growing working population contributing to the Fund, not that many retirees and a growing economy in contrast to recent times.
“The fundamental issue here is structural. We can make all the operational improvements we wish but unless we change something to increase those who are contributing [to the NIS] and look potentially at how we can make sure that benefits don’t run ahead of our capacity to pay them, we’re not going to fix this. [The depletion time for the Fund is] 12 to 19 years from now, it is important when we look at this to realise this is not a prediction. This is a timely reminder that if we do nothing we’re going to be in trouble,” the Deputy Chairman underscored.
Mr. Adams said the National Insurance Scheme acted as a safety net for Barbadians and played an important role in ensuring that people were not “crushed” by the economic standstill which resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stating that a “strong Barbados required a strong NIS” he pointed out that the process to creating a sustainable Scheme in the future needed to be not only methodical but also thoughtful and inclusive.
“We started to look at who can be part of our working groups and our advisory groups, assisting a technical core of people to come up with proposals that we can put to the Social Partnership and Cabinet, in due course, and our timeline is very, very tight. We’re moving as fast as we can on this and we hope to have the first set of proposals by the end of the month and that will go to the Prime Minister and to Cabinet for discussion. And, if we have to make adjustments, we will make them but we have a chance here to do something. It’s not just a rescue job, it is really to shape the future going forward,” Mr. Adams emphasised.