Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are examining ways to ensure sustainability of their respective social security schemes, Labour and National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson has said.
He told the three-day CARICOM Heads of Social Security meeting that ended here Friday that “Caribbean nations must find their own unique method to adopt the innovative strategies in management and administration that help to improve communication with stakeholders and citizen engagement”.
He said they should also seek to “expand benefits, improve compliance levels, and strengthen their governance structures; all while ensuring the sustainability of their national insurance funds”.
The conference, which followed the meeting of the Inter-American Conference on Social Security, was attended by delegates from the host country, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Turks & Caicos Islands.
It discussed the global trends in social security and how they fit within the region, and at a national level.
Gibson told the delegates that in the Bahamas, the National Insurance Fund has reserves of approximately US$1.8 billion, and that the National Insurance Board (NIB) plays a critical role in the Bahamian economy.
“In fact, in many instances, NIB has invested in a number of infrastructural projects and private sector equity offerings as a means of stimulating economic activity and ultimately building our economy.”
Gibson noted that one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals aimed at building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation, speaks to the need for investment in infrastructure, including information and communication technology.
“This type of investment empowers communities and advances a digital agenda that will improve the ease with which citizens do business,” Gibson said, adding that the NIB has reached a significant milestone in its history through the implementation of a state-of-the-art insurance administration system software, which will improve its services to the public.
But Gibson said that the improvements in the NIB services do not allow for undocumented migrants, such as CARICOM nationals, to be registered as insured people.
He said the contributions of those CARICOM nationals who fall into this category will be available to be pooled in support of their benefit claims in their home country under the CARICOM Reciprocal Agreement on Social Security.
“We are pleased that efforts are being made by CARICOM to engage with Haiti with a view to Haiti signing on to the Reciprocal arrangements,” Gibson said, noting that he was looking forward to the discussion on the accession of the CARICOM Agreement on Social Security in respect of Haiti and Suriname and associate member states.