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KINGSTON — The Government is examining the feasibility of introducing an unemployment insurance scheme.

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, speaking in the House of Representatives earlier this week, said that the Government, in its assessment, “has to be cognizant of those other jurisdictions where similar measures were introduced under their social security system, but did not remain viable."

He was contributing to a resolution moved by Member of Parliament of South St. Andrew, Dr. Omar Davies, which called for expansion of the social security system.  

Minister Charles said that under the law, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) has to be operated as a trust fund, as workers’ contributions are compulsorily deducted from their earnings, hence the scheme “cannot be operated in a capricious manner to address all the social ills in the society."

He noted that the Ministry has other welfare programmes, separate and apart from the NIS that persons, who need such assistance, can access. He cited the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), and economic empowerment initiatives such as the Youth and Employment Training Project; the Youth Empowerment Strategy; and Steps-to-Work.

Meanwhile, speaking on a related resolution, which was moved by Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, Minister Charles, rebutted the suggestion that the National Insurance Fund (NIF) is underperforming.

He said that despite the fact that the NIF, in the last fiscal year, collected $7.4 billion in contributions and paid out $10.8 billion in benefits (a deficit of $3.4 billion) the total value of the fund as of March 31, 2011, was $66.5 billion.

“This does not sound like a fund that is underperforming. In fact, we are pleased at the successful gains resulting from the prudent management of the investment programme being pursued by the NIF,” Mr. Charles told members.

 

By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter