The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) has urged government to allow the board of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to function and pursue its mandate of investment and management of the Fund without political interference.
According to a press statement from General Secretary Dennis de Peiza on Tuesday, CTUSAB found the actuarial report on the state of the NIS Fund “alarming and disturbing” and indicated fundamental questions regarding the management of the fund were raised.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley raised the alarm bell earlier this month that the NIS needed an urgent fix, with actuarial experts projecting its near $4 billion fund risks being depleted by 2034 if major reforms are not undertaken.
The prime minister stressed that while the NIS was currently not in crisis, it may reach that stage if steps to ensure it can continue paying benefits were not taken.
“The Congress accepts that the NIS board was established as tripartite in nature, to which representatives from government, labour, and the private sector are appointed,” De Peiza stated.
“CTUSAB maintains that the construct of the board in this way, was for the expressed purpose of ensuring its independence in its functioning, decision-making, and management of the NIS fund.
“It is for the politicians to recognise that the NIS funds are the property of the workers and employers and not those of the state.”
De Peiza said CTUSAB felt there was a need for full accountability to be given by the board for the current state of the NIS fund.
“It is to be understood that this is an important step in the process towards ensuring that there is transparency and accountability, in this matter of such high national importance,” he said.
“The millions of dollars invested for which there will apparently be no returns, represents a painful and agonising blow to the psyche, social, and economic well-being of Barbadian workers; as the depletion of the fund can compromise payments due in the medium-term and long-term.”
He added: “CTUSAB believes that following a full investigation, some measures should be identified for the purpose of working to recover those funds which can be retrieved.
“CTUSAB posits that the performance of the fund can only be improved, where upon the government and the private sector work in earnest to ensure that new avenues of employment are created, to re-absorb the almost 30 000 now unemployed, back into the workforce.”
On the matter of stability and longevity of the fund, De Peiza said CTUSAB appealed for caution against any hasty and unilateral decision on a change to the national retirement age.
“It is proposed that any change is first the subject of a national discourse,” he said.
Among the many proposals being considered in a review of the NIS structure is the raising of the national retirement age in Barbados from 67 to as high as 72.