It is a sad day when our politicians should be ‘arguing’ about how to spend/invest NIS Funds. Both political parties have borrowed from the NIS Fund. What is in dispute concerns whether the government has been investing NIS Funds in a manner which will NOT compromise minimum yield expectations. Government’s defence to the charge has been that local banks are paying 2.5% on deposits and therefore it is cheaper for the government to use the fund to develop Barbados while paying the fund 7.5%. A win-win situation. Minister Sincker promised that ‘very soon’ he will be outlining how the NIS fund is to be used to develop Barbados.
BU links the rising debate of government’s use of NIS funds to a declining economic performance and the need to maintain public sector employment along with a high level of spend on social services. It is ironic that the debate in parliament today was about a vote for 30 million to prop up the Transport Board. It is a pity the debate was not about the need to make the Transport Board more efficient rather than government’s social obligation to finance public transport.
Barbadians are becoming more concerned by the day about how the NIS should be invested. In a period which leads into a general election, it is inevitable the issue will become immersed in political rhetoric. There is merit to the suggestion by independents that the NIS Fund should be managed with a measure of separation from central government. Perhaps using the Central Bank as a model?
The importance of the NIS Fund to the financial well being of Barbadians should be reflected in national discourse. It is unfortunate former Chairman Tony Marshall has made the decision to be silent about the non renewal of his contract to serve on the NIS Board. Then again he probably has his personal battle to wage. Like Ronald Toppin and many others in senior roles at the Fair Training Commission for example who resigned without explanation, the secrecy continues. The people are the ones who are shafted in a system which promotes lack of transparency.
What sums it it for many is the fact that in 2012 up to date financials of the Fund remains outstanding. A problem which has straddled both administrations.