Tag Archives: NIS

Understanding the NIS of Barbados (1) – Social Characteristics and Basic Structure

Walter Blackman

Walter Blackman

Modern Barbados is a society which has evolved from a foundation of slavery. Since 1834, up to the present day, the institution of slavery on the island has been replaced by an overt but complex system of prejudice and discrimination based on colour and perceived class.

Putting the “red legs” aside, the perceived lowest class of citizen in Barbados is black in colour. This black colour-lowest class combination is viewed as the sociological pool from which our nation has historically produced its labourers, murderers, thieves, rogues, vagabonds, local prostitutes, and petty criminals, to mention a few categories. With the passage of time, this group has produced almost every type of citizen except the owners of large successful businesses or corporations with the capacity to survive through the ages.

At this end of our social continuum, there are some people who have worked hard to help raise their children and maintain their households and who have assisted significantly in the development of Barbados (e.g. housewives, small vendors, handymen) without ever being officially employed. We can therefore understand and appreciate the need for government to offer this group a helping hand whenever the need arises.

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Concern About the National Insurance Scheme

Submitted by Anthony Davis
Dr. Justin Robinson, Chairman of National Insurance Board

Dr. Justin Robinson, Chairman of National Insurance Board

The National Insurance Scheme is backlogged with sickness benefit claims. Barbados Today has learned that the backlog is resulting in scores of individuals waiting to receive their sickness benefit payments, some as far back as November. And while it is not clear how much longer those persons will have to wait, it is at this time uncertain if unemployment benefits will also be affected by this wait. NIS PILE UP BACKLOG OF SICKNESS BENEFITS CLAIMS CAUSED BY ‘TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES’ on the back page of “Barbados Today” dated 03 January

My, my, my! Now we have gremlins running about the NIS Department. I wonder how come. I hope that it is not contagious. Can it get any worse?

We have to keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t spread to other departments. Are there really “technical difficulties” being experienced by the department, or they of a pillaging kind? Why did Mrs. Hunt have to pass the buck to the marketing and research department? I would not have thought that such problems would come under the jurisdiction of that department. Is there no specific IT Department? Was she too busy, or was she afraid that Mr. Maddens questions could be too difficult to answer, and therefore evoke one that could be embarrassing to the Government? Was there a directive not to talk to the press on this issue because the Minister of Finance does not have an answer yet? Could it be that the answer is a million-dollar one?

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Numbers Don’t Lie. People do!

We apologize to Walter Blackman for picking up his submission several days lateDavid

Walter Blackman

Walter Blackman

His silver hairs will purchase us a good opinion, and buy men’s voices to commend our deeds.

William Shakespeare: Julius Caesar

I make reference to a Nation News article dated November 4, 2013, entitled “Numbers don’t lie” and written by Sanka Price. In that article, Mr. Erskine Griffith is highlighted as a top‐level civil servant who served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance under six Ministers of Finance and five Prime Ministers, dating back from his appointment to the post under Tom Adams to Owen Arthur, under whom he retired as the Director of Finance and Head of the Civil Service in 2000.

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A Country Marking Time

Cyprus, the latest EU country under the gun

Cyprus, the latest EU country under the gun

BU was under the impression that the 2013-2014 Estimates debated last week in the Lower House – and which will be rubber stamped in the Upper House this week – was set to be one of the most important parliamentary debates in a post-Independence period. BU makes no apology by stating that many of the contributions from both sides can easily be described as arrant nonsense.

Of great interest is the fact the Estimates debate (Appropriations Bill) revealed that several heads do not have enough money allocated to cover the annualized expenditure needed based on historical data. In fact it is patently obvious that the government expects it will have to return to parliament, soon, to seek approval for additional monies from the Consolidated Fund in the form of a supplementary. The bottomline is that the Appropriations Bill is meant to be government’s budget, and how is a budget defined?  An estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.

One therefore has the question what was the purpose of the five day debate in the Lower Chamber. How can one debate the Appropriations Bill if the Heads are not realistically budgeted for? Given the current state of the global economy this is not the time to be playing the donkey with public finances. The general election is done and we need our government to come clean and tell us what is the plan. There is no time for a preamble, please cut to the chase. How about an across the board slash in salaries of 15%? It is obvious we cannot continue to use the NIS monies to fund government’s day to day expenses. This is folly of an indescribable kind. The revelations by the Auditor General which both political sides love to quote but also ignore adds to the negative outlook.

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Governor General Elliott Belgrave Picks Tony Marshall BUT Boots Dr. Francis Chandler

His ExcellencySir Elliott BelgraveGCMG KA CHB QC

His Excellency
Sir Elliott Belgrave

BU listened with interest to DJ and others at Voice of Barbados (VOB92.9FM) extending best wishing to Senator Tony Marshall on his appointment to the Upper Chamber of the Barbados Parliament as an Independent Senator. BU on the other hand withholds all plauditory remarks until Tony Marshall shows respect to the public he pretended to serve while he was  #1 afternoon talk show host and Chairman of the important National Insurance Scheme.

Some will see the irony of Senators Marshall and Byer-Suckoo being members of that Chamber in the current term. It was the then Minister Esther Byer-Suckoo who refused to renew Tony Marshall’s appointment to the National Insurance Board. The usually loquacious Tony Marshall has not issued a public statement that we are aware of on the matter. There was rampant speculation at the time on BU about the ‘optics’ he would have exuded as Chairman of the NIS Scheme given his former role as a director on the CLICO Board. There was the other camp who believed it had to do with matters arising from the NIS on again off again decision to fund the problem plagued Paradise Beach Development Project (Four Seasons Project). Whatever the reason the public, taxpayers, are none the wiser.

Tony Marshall given his roles to date BU regards him as a person of public interest and we are within our right to place the former banker under the microscope. As the #1 talk show host in Barbados he never used the VOB92.9FM bully pulpit to speak out about CLICO from an insider perspective. Contrast his position with Tony Hoyos who resigned on principle from the Barbados National Bank Board (now Republic Bank) to express his disagreement at the time about the share price government was willing to accept from RBL (how this matter finally was settled is fodder for another blog).

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NIS Pension Looms Large

Click image to access presentation in PDF

The presentation maybe of interest if we consider the importance of the NIS Scheme’s contribution  to supplementing retirement income.  BU continues to be optimistic that full transparency will engulf the management of the fund to ensure that one day coming soon the audited financials of the NIS Scheme will be made public to encourage the rigour of public scrutiny. It must be part of the checks and balances to encourage resilience and integrity to our most important fund.

Did The Nation Talkback Forum Really Meet Its Objective Kaymar?

Kaymar Jordan, Editor in Chief, Nation newspaper (l) George Pilgrim, General Secretary, DLP

BU observed the Talkback Forum hosted by the Nation newspaper this week and contrary to Editor in Chief Kaymar Jordan’s pronouncement that it was a success, we beg to disagree. Perhaps she measured success based on the 500 hundred attendees and 1,500 streaming the event (it would be interesting to know how many people streaming the event were logged on from Barbados). However, if the Nation newspaper is the people’s choice and is touted to have a circulation of  greater than one hundred thousand then some may judge that – at the height of the silly season – the forum should have attracted greater numbers.

Regarding the content of the discussion, BU suggests that the report card cannot be graded with a pass mark if the government side was NOT represented. Yes there was a lively discussion but if the forum was constructed to bring key stakeholders/commentators together to discuss “The Next General Election”, surely a full ventilation of the topic could not have been achieved in the circumstances.

BU has stated on other blogs that the government erred by not sending a representative to the session. We note the general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party DLP) has taken umbrage to the quality of the invitation sent to the Prime Minister by the Nation newspaper, indicating that the Nation deviated from protocol. It does not mean Mr General Secretary that Stuart could not have dispatched an emissary to participate who could have used the opportunity to speak to any discomfort the Prime Minister has with the invitation.  A better outcome to addressing public perception. This government continues to have a problem appreciating and responding to the political dimension to several issues.

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Notes From a Native Son: Fooling Some of the People All the Time

Hal Austin

Pensions policy has been the most talked-about of all social policies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. To be now discussing the subject in relation to Barbados is like going back in time, but it is a necessary discussion to have, given the reluctance of decision-makers to even learn the basics of the subject. But before doing so, a brief history: state pensions as the term is now understood in policy discussions go back to 1898, when Bismarck introduced the benefit in Germany, with a state retirement age of 65. However, in those days, longevity was about 45, so it was unlikely that most working Germans would reach retirement age, and if they did, live very much longer. But, post war, due to improvements in medical science, nutrition, and a reduction in hard, physical work, global longevity has now expanded by leaps and bounds with people in developed countries now living in to their 80s and 90s. What this means in real terms, is, for example, someone coming out of university at the age of 23, working for 42 years and retiring at the age of 65, has on average 15 or more years to live. With a growing population, there were on average about four to five workers for every retired person at the turn of the last century, making the pay-as-you-go system viable. However, combined with the demographic time bomb, in which there are now about two workers to every pensioner (Japan at present, China by 2030, and most developed nations, with the exception of the US, by 2020), this is no longer viable.

In 1981, under the brutal General Pinochet, the Chilean military government embarked on one of the most progressive reviews of state pensions in the world. This was followed by most democratic countries, leading to a series of state-backed pensions, geared to meet this challenge. In New Zealand we got the KiwiSaver, in Australia compulsory superannuation, in the US 401(Ks), in Britain National Employment Savings Trust (which is semi-compulsory), and many more.

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Sinckler Says It Is Time To Leverage The NIS Fund To Benefit Barbadians

Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance

It is a sad day when our politicians should be ‘arguing’ about how to spend/invest NIS Funds. Both political parties have borrowed from the NIS Fund. What is in dispute concerns whether the government has been investing NIS Funds in a manner which will NOT compromise minimum yield expectations. Government’s defence to the charge has been that local banks are paying 2.5% on deposits and therefore it is cheaper for the government to use the fund to develop Barbados while paying the fund 7.5%. A win-win situation. Minister Sincker promised that ‘very soon’ he will be outlining how the NIS fund is to be used to develop Barbados.

BU links the rising debate of government’s use of NIS funds to a declining economic performance and the need to maintain public sector employment along with a high level of spend on social services. It is ironic that the debate in parliament today was about a vote for 30 million to prop up the Transport Board. It is a pity the debate was not about the need to make the Transport Board more efficient rather than government’s social obligation to finance public transport.

Barbadians are becoming more concerned by the day about how the NIS should be invested. In a period which leads into a general election, it is inevitable the issue will become immersed in political rhetoric. There is merit  to the suggestion by independents that the NIS Fund should be managed with a measure of separation from central government. Perhaps using the Central Bank as a model?

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Notes From a Native Son – the NIS: Who Is Killing The Goose That Lays The Golden Egg?

Hal Austin

According to some reports, the governor of the central bank expressed amazement when a leading credit rating agency reduced the Barbados credit rating to junk status. I am not sure if he was surprised that the agency had the audacity to downgrade Barbados, or that it took them so long to realise that the nation’s economy is insolvent. This aside, there is everything wrong about the governor’s publicly expressed views, given he is by office the senior financial regulator, and what these observations say about his understanding of the importance of monetary policy and of the important role banks play in society.

To deal with just one aspect: he is on record as giving his backing, somewhat surprisingly, for Canadian banks based in Barbados on the basis of their efficiency. Although this may be true, there is a fundamental difference between the regulation of a bank branch and a subsidiary, between the controls exercised by the host jurisdiction and the home jurisdiction, and generally in cross-border banking. And, more so, the importance this structure plays in financial intermediation and the control of M1 money in the economy and the funding of small and medium enterprises and mortgage borrowers. In other words, the economy can be held to ransom by banks that listen to orders from their head offices based in Hamilton, Port of Spain or Toronto, while ignoring the pressing needs of the Barbados economy. Further, some of these banks expatriate money to their home bases at the end of business every working day. This is a key part of the capital flight that is really damaging to the economy.

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