NIS ‘not broke’, says Dr Byer

The number of Barbadians becoming dependent on the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is outpacing the growth of contributors, raising concerns about the viability of the scheme. However, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer has given the assurance that the state of the NIS is strong.

In an address to delegates attending the 60th annual conference of the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) last weekend, Dr Byer said that the changing population had presented the fund with some challenges. She explained that the growing aging population, coupled with the fact that Barbadians were having fewer children, had led to a decline in new entrants into the workforce and fewer contributors to the scheme.

However, she said Government had taken steps to remedy the situation by extending the retirement age.

Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer.
Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer.

“We have to look at the nature of the Fund . . . we have an ageing demographic [but] we are now at a retirement age of 66-and-a-half, and that was from 2014. [As] at 2018 the retirement age will go up to 67,” she told the partial audience.

Dr Byer emphasized that all the scheme’s accounts – the National Insurance Fund; the Unemployment Fund; the Severance Fund; the Catastrophe Fund; the Sugar Workers Provident Fund; and the Retraining Fund – were robust, with the Unemployment Fund the most troubled among them, blaming “prolonged economic slowdown and the increase in unemployment”, which she said meant fewer people were contributing to that particular Fund.

  “When you hear a concern about the National Insurance money it is usually in the area of the Unemployment Fund. But it has been able to meet its obligations so far because of the assets that it accumulated over the years.

“So when you see a recession such as this one you are not too concerned . . . about the fact that we are seeing that dip in the Unemployment Fund right now.”

However she reported that it was beginning to turn the corner, and that it had assets of $71 million and a surplus of $8.3 million.

She added that the return to buoyancy of the Unemployment Fund was being helped by an agreement with the private sector to divert some Severance Fund money into it, reassuring workers that this arrangement would not affect them and that their contributions would remain the same.

Dr Byer said the Severance Fund assets stood at $187 million with a $7.3 million surplus, while the Catastrophe Fund was “performing well” with assets of $48.5 million and a surplus of $2.5 million. The National Insurance Fund, the largest among the programmes, was in “a very healthy state “and continued to provide a “lifeline” to Barbados, the minister stated.

“At the end of July this year, the Fund had assets of over $5 billion. We’re not broke. For the year to date, that fund has a surplus of $181.5 million. [This is] an extremely healthy state,” she stressed.

8 Responses to NIS ‘not broke’, says Dr Byer

  1. Duane Burke
    Duane Burke August 26, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Are these $5 Billion in Assets marked to market eg Govt Bonds or valued at principal value. What percentage of these assets are Govt instruments? Where are the “journalist” that should be asking the questions to defray the Animal Farm rhetoric? How is it possible to admit an upside down pyramid (less younger people contributing than those approaching or at retirement taking out, yet deem it robust? Like a ponzi scheme when cash outflows exceed inflows it goes belly up eventually.

  2. harry turnover August 26, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Retirement age will go up to 67….YET this SAME GOVERNMENT wants to RETIRE WORKERS AT 60 when they should be contributing until 67.

    YOU BYER from one corner of your mouth AGREED that the BIDC should retire their workers as soon as they reach 60…now you are saying that workers should work until RETIREMENT AGE.

    This is another classic ” talk for the occasion ” rhetoric

    .Government taking out the surpluses and using it willy nilly instead of diverting them to the ones in trouble

  3. Heather Cole
    Heather Cole August 26, 2015 at 8:31 am

    She has not a clue. She should present the audited statements as proof of the state affairs of the NIS. Nobody in their right mind should take her seriously until she does. For all the borrowing the government has done from the Fund, it cannot be healthy.

  4. Keera Harding
    Keera Harding August 26, 2015 at 8:37 am

    It not broke then I want my money 2 years wanna owe me I want my $ if I did owe wanna I wud had go court. Pay me. I calling today

  5. Lucinda Katrina McSinister
    Lucinda Katrina McSinister August 26, 2015 at 10:21 am

    This woman don’t know when to hush!

  6. Cheryl A Rollins
    Cheryl A Rollins August 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Show us the proof. The cheques and balances. Do you think we a re w that stupid to take your word for it.

  7. Dianne Barker
    Dianne Barker August 26, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    If it is not broke…why are people waiting so long for monies due to them. No one should have to wait a year for sick benefits. No one should wait a year for tax returns proceeds. The government needs transparency and capable people to run it and I am having my doubts with you Dr. Byer.

  8. Duane Burke
    Duane Burke August 26, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    So reading all the comments here I am looking forward to the Barbados Today follow up from an investigative journalist perspective rather than script writing.


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