Democracy, Apathy and the National Insurance Fund
For many years the blogmaster and others have posted voluminously about the importance of the citizenry actively participating in the type of democracy parodied from the former colonial master. While no man made construct is perfect the system of democracy practiced by the Western world is described – some will say by the cynics – as the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.
Several reasons (excuses) have been offered for the increasing cynicism, distrust and apathy being directed by Barbadians at government – with decreasing voter turnout to elect members to parliament and poor turnout at town hall meetings to critique government sponsored initiatives is a good litmus test.
In recent days the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley has finally had to declare to the public the sorry state of the National Insurance Fund (NIF). For political reasons she indicated that the condition of the NIF was brought to her attention in June of 2022. However, keen followers of local affairs will recall that after winning the 2018 general election she stated publicly the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) was in a mess and the government will have to circle back to it at some point. Also the 2015 NIS Actuarial Review along with Walter Blackman and other social commentators sounded off concerns about the rate NIS pension benefits were outstripping savings going back to the 2015 NIS Actuarial Report.
Here is something we know, Prime Minister Mia Mottley CANNOT deny the poor state of financial discipline in the public service evidenced by over a decade old Auditor General reports. Can we reasonably assume she will assemble ALL permanent secretaries and relevant personnel as a matter of urgency to correct the problem? Surely poor financial management in government departments must be made a priority to ensure there is efficient use of scarce taxpayer resources? Then again didn’t the late prime inister David Thompson assemble the top management of state owned entities (SOEs) in 2008 to warn better was expected and how has that progressed 15 years later?
- Walter Blackman Comments on the 15th Actuarial Review of the NIS of Barbados – Misallocation of Human Resources
We are here now and Barbadians have been promised the opportunity to participate in stakeholder sessions to help with reimagining a NEW NIS Scheme. The blogmaster anticipates there will be energetic public participation given the threat of reduced NIS benefits and possible changes to eligibility.
Do Barbadians understand the reason for the current state of play at the NIF – as one example – has a lot to do with the disinterest demonstrated to actively participate in our democracy? The disengagement has created a situation where the tail is wagging the dog and given rise to a marauding political class. Imagine if the same noise currently polluting the public space about the NIS was able to be sustained on the many other serious issues always confronting the country.
The importance of a robust governance framework cannot be underscored as it relates to ensuring an efficient implementation and management of policies, accountabilities and performance to name a few components. If Barbadians are as intelligent as the size of the national allocation to the education budget suggests, there must come a time IQ/EQ is tangibly demonstrated through citizen advocacy even if it has to resort to civil disobedience. History is replete with examples to support meaningful change is only achieved when extreme positions are taken.