Rise of the Uneducated Class
Many issues of the day continue to question our ability to govern. One of them is the health of the National Insurance Fund (NIF). If you listen to the politician while in Opposition, it is a fund under stress. If you listen to the same politician on attaining the office of government, the NIF is described in more positive terms.
For the sober in the crowd there are the actuarial reviews to consider. Successive governments have been unresponsiveness to public inquiry about releasing the reviews for public consumption in a timely manner. Of equal concern has been the inability of successive governments to ensure the timely release of audited financials to parliament.
Generations of Barbadians have contributed to the NIF to give currency to the tagline – it is our lifeline. Auditor General report after report detail bad investment decisions taken by successive governments of National Insurance Scheme (NIS) motivated by pampering and pandering the old boy network. The “investment” of USD60 millions in Clearwater Bay referred to loosely by Barbadians as Four Seasons is one example.
The NIS is one of a handful of state owned entities that should be ring-fenced to protect against the incompetence of the political class. Judging from all reputable sources of economic data, the inability to adequately govern a 166 square mile, less than three hundred thousand people located in an idyllic geography should be evidence enough.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw have signaled in recent weeks that major reform is coming for the education system. The issue of revamping the system has been discussed for decades by the more progressive minds. The inability of our leading lights to manage the NIS and the other entities that combine to ensure well functioning organs in the society is an indictment on the current system of edcuation.
Successive NIS Boards, NIS Investment Committees and the ancillary services have been managed by “educated” Barbadians. The performance of the NIS like the judiciary, like the BWA, like the transportation system, like the waste management system, like the PSV sector etc etc all point to the inability to convert significant investment in education in the post Independence period.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) since wining office in May 2018 has aggressively pursued economic strategies to address an economy in free fall. Interestingly, we have not observed the same urgency to address challenges with the NIS. In fact Prime Minister Mia Mottley hinted that the hesitation to address the NIS problem is rooted in the enormity of the solution required given the future obligations of the fund.
This week it was reported that millions of Brazilians protested against President Jair Bolsonaro’s plan to privatize the pension plan. The story attracted the attention of this blogmaster because one senses that Barbados will have to implement draconian measures to protect the NIS for the many sooner rather than later. Already President hBolsonaro as suspended several benefits to Brazil’s low income, disabled and senior citizens. Only a few years ago Brazil was considered the emerging economy from the Latam region.
The message to Barbadians is that we cannot continue to do the same thing all the time and expect a different result.
BB = P+G (E*SOEs +NG-S)