PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis yesterday. Photo: Moise Amisial
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
AN increase in National Insurance Board contributions will not come off the table until the Davis administration decides whether or not to accept the recommendations of experts regarding the sustainability of the NIB fund, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said yesterday.
Mr Davis said the decision will come down to an assessment of fiscal issues and a determination of how to alleviate the financial burden on poor Bahamians.
Back in April, The Tribune exclusively reported that the 11th actuarial review of the National Insurance Board predicted that the fund could be depleted by 2028 should officials neglect to take urgent action. That report had reduced the fund’s potential depletion timeline by one year, as the 10th review had made a prediction of 2029.
Despite this, Mr Davis said at the time that an increase was not being considered by his government.
However, the issue was rehashed yesterday after a local daily reported the recommendation is to increase the contribution rate by two percent next month and continue increases every two years until 2036 to ensure the fund’s financial sustainability.
Mr Davis said the findings of the report were not new and until a decision is made, the government will continue to “hold the line”.
“If you took into context what I said then was that coupled with all of the challenges that the Bahamian people were experiencing at the time we were not minded to follow the recommendations at that time,” Mr Davis told reporters yesterday. “The report is nothing new. We expected the same report.
“They are the technocrats that are advising us. We are the directorate. We have to find ways and means of softening any increases that are put on the backs of the Bahamian people.
“I have not seen the latest report nor that I am surprised by it, but upon reviewing it and having regard to all of the other initiatives that we have in growing the economy and seeking other means of revenues for the country we’ll take that into account to determine what best and how best to address the national insurance issues.”
Asked to say whether an increase, as suggested was on the table, Mr Davis said: “A recommendation has been made. It doesn’t come off the table until we decide whether or not to accept that recommendation. We have not yet done that.
“As indicated we have to assess all of our other fiscal issues, ie, how the economy is going to be growing, will we be obtaining new revenues, how effective our collection efforts through the new Revenue Enhancement Unit, will be to determine how we will address that and if we could find a ways and means to alleviate the burden on poor Bahamians or on the worker we will do so.”
“We’re holding the line, that’s what we’re doing, we’re holding the line,” Mr Davis said when asked by The Tribune if there were any mitigation factors on the government’s part.
“We hear the experts. We do not discount their concern nor do we discount their recommendations but our responsibility is to see how we could keep relief (for) the least among us and that’s what we are doing.
“We are just searching to try to find initiatives that may cause us to avoid having to do what is being recommended or if we do that what safety net we are going to put in place for those persons who are going to be impacted by any increases.
“Those are the things we’re looking at and I think that’s what I have to do. I think that’s our responsibility as well.”