By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Government was yesterday urged to stop developing social programmes “we have no capacity to afford”, a prominent governance reform campaigner arguing against pushing forward with the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
Robert Myers, a principal for the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), was speaking after the Central Bank revealed that almost one-quarter of the Government’s subsidy payments in the final three months of 2016 related to NHI.
Its 2016 fourth quarter report, disclosed yesterday, said: “The expansion in current spending was largely attributed to a $26.9 million (11.7 per cent) rise in transfer payments to $257.6 million, as subsidies firmed by $19.6 million (24.2 per cent) to $100.6 million - a quarter of which ($23 million) related to preparations for the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.”
Mr Myers, in response to the Central Bank report, told Tribune Business of NHI: “The Government can’t afford that right now.
“We’ve got to get NHI out of creating efficiencies in the existing system, not in spending money. Let’s create these efficiencies, and once we see the fruits of our labour, we can turn around and figure out how to spend that money on a more efficient system.”
Mr Myers added that the Government was continuing to develop new social benefits programmes, which required extra spending, despite having been repeatedly told that its main social security scheme - the National Insurance Board (NIB) - will likely be bankrupt by 2029-2030 without serious, urgent reform.
“They’re spending money they don’t have,” he told Tribune Business. “We’ve got to get business minds involved in these decisions, and work on real, tangible change that results in the lowering of expenditure, then worry about the benefits.
“If we’re putting in place social benefits that we have no capacity to afford, who are we fooling if that system collapses? We’re talking about NIB being bankrupt by 2030, but are still looking at putting in other social benefits.
“That’s just irresponsible, and people can’t afford another tax, as VAT has removed so much from the economy. It’s just reckless,” he added.
“Do the work, change the system up, get efficiencies and accountability, and see where that takes you. Implement a more efficient system; don’t make these assumptions just to make a fool of us.”