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CARICOM Countries Seeks Ways to Strengthen Social Security
By Lindsay Thompson, BIS
Apr 29, 2016 - 2:04:47 AM

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The National Insurance Board hosts the 27th CARICOM Heads of Social Security Meeting at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, April 27 to 29, 2016. Minister of Labour and National Insurance, and Minister of the Public Service, the Hon. Shane Gibson, pictured centre, delivered the Keynote Address. Also pictured among the delegates are: Rowena Bethel, Director, NIB; Renae McKay, Chairperson, NIB; Salas Hamilton, Communication Specialist, CARICOM Secretariat CSME Unit; Ariel Pino, Senior Specialist for Social Protection & Occupational Safety and Health, ILO, Port of Spain; Omar de la Torre de la Mora, Secretary General of the Inter-American Conference on Social Security (CISS) and Phaedra Mackey-Knowles, Deputy Director, Investments, NIB. (BIS Photo/Derek Smith)

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Countries within the region are strategizing ways to ensure sustainability of their respective social security schemes. Minister of Labour and National Insurance, and Minister of the Public Service, the Hon. Shane Gibson, said Wednesday that he was happy the agenda of the 27th CARICOM Heads of Social Security Meeting would focus on advancing social security in the Caribbean. Minister Gibson was delivering the keynote address at the forum, which takes place April 27-29 at Atlantis, Paradise Island.

Participating Countries, including The Bahamas, are Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, The British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Christopher & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, and the Turks & Caicos Islands.

The meeting also takes into account the global trends in social security and how these fit within the region, and at a national level.

“Caribbean nations must find their own unique method to adopt the innovative strategies in management and administration that help to improve communications with stakeholders and citizen engagement, expand benefits, improve compliance levels and strengthen their governance structures; all while ensuring the sustainability of their national insurance funds,” the Minister said.

He shared that in The Bahamas, the National Insurance Fund has reserves of approximately $1.8 billion, and that 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.”

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Minister of Labour and National Insurance, and Minister of the Public Service, the Hon. Shane Gibson, delivering the Keynote Address at the opening of The 27th CARICOM Heads of Social Security Meeting at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (BIS Photo/Derek Smith)

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,” Mr. Gibson said.

In this vein, he shared with delegates that the NIB has reached a significant milestone in its history – the implementation of a state-of-the-art Insurance Administration System software, which will improve its services to the public.

And, by June of this year, the NIB will cause businesses to benefit from these modern facilities when the employer self-service portal is introduced.

Another measure Mr. Gibson shared is the introduction of the NIB Smart Card, which contains encrypted information for the insured, has other security features to prevent fraud, and is the gateway to the government’s proposed National Health Insurance plan.

He said however, that the NIB new policies do not allow for undocumented migrants in this case, CARICOM nationals, to be registered as insured people. Consequently, they will not be able to obtain a smart card.

In this vein, 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 onto the Reciprocal arrangements,” Mr. Gibson said.

He said he is 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 and the outcome, during the meeting.

The 27th CARICOM Heads of Social Security Meeting came on the heels of the Meeting of the Inter-American Conference on Social Security (CAOSA) held April 24 to 27, 2016, which was opened by the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister, at Atlantis.

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