Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
NATIONAL Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle yesterday admitted that no government has been “bold enough” to take on recommendations that National Insurance Board contributions must increase to sustain the financial viability of the social security net.
Mr Rolle was asked yesterday about the possibility of NIB contributions increasing, as he said the agency has to date paid out in excess of $100m “to individuals primarily who have not contributed to NIB or who have contributed partially to NIB”.
He was noncommittal on whether an increase will come or when it could happen, only telling reporters it has been an ongoing discussion for years.
“I challenged the media last year to have that discussion to engage the public and let’s see their views,” the minister said before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
“Individuals have, in my opinion, now recognise(d) the true value of NIB and its contributions and the value of the contributions to the community. The government itself, in unemployment assistance alone, is spending nearly $100m to individuals primarily who have not contributed to NIB or who have contributed partially to NIB.
“So, members of the public know how important that is and I challenge the media and I offer that challenge again to the media to put it out there, to let me see what the response of the public is going to be because your platform is much, much larger than mine.”
Pressed further on whether there had been a recommendation to increase contributions, Mr Rolle said: “That recommendation has been made from 2015, I believe it’s been out there.
“To be quite frank with you, neither the PLP nor the FNM has been bold enough to take that back to the public and so, during this pandemic, I again say Bahamians now realise the importance and value of NIB and they may be eager to contribute, but I urge you to use your great platform so that we can get their response.”
Mr Rolle said all of NIB’s directors have pushed the government to make the move, but the government has not made the determination.
However, eventually, he said the decision will have to be made.
“We have to also take into consideration that during Dorian and this pandemic the resources and the funding to the board has been diminished and we have got to make a decision to make sure the board continues to be able to serve and that may mean that consideration will be given to the recommendation that has been advanced to us many, many times by actuaries and others who say listen this is what must take place.”
The minister also addressed concerns about delayed assistance payments.
“The government assistance programme offered by the government and executed by NIB, there was a delay in that process and that delay has been addressed.
“Cheques are now available to everyone who qualifies and they could collect the cheques consistent with where it was and the other programme, direct deposits have taken place.”