Former Director of the then National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Emma Hippolyte, believes now is the time to talk about unemployment insurance benefits.
“Now is the time to talk about it so people will embrace the fact that we need unemployment insurance. But now is not the time to introduce it,” Hippolyte told St Lucia Times.
The former Minister of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, observed that half the contributors to the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) may not be working due to the current COVID-19 global pandemic.
According to Hippolyte, as a consequence, NIC contributions are grossly diminished.
She asserted that now is not the time to include unemployment benefits.
The former Gros Islet MP explained that such a measure will rapidly deplete NIC reserves.
“We have to talk about it, we have to embrace it , we need to discuss it and when our economy picks up again, that is when we have to bring it in and build the reserves,” she told St Lucia Times.
“If we pay unemployment insurance now, technically all we are doing is depleting the pension reserve,” Hippolyte explained.
“That is why when I made the announcement when the National Insurance decided to pay the economic replacement package, I supported the payments. But I always said it should have been given to the government as a loan, because right now the NIC may have paid up to maybe 60 million dollars out of our pension reserves and it cannot be replaced,” she observed.
“That will impact future pension payments. It will impact the amount that we contribute to the NIC,” Hippolyte declared.
She expressed the view that when the economy is buoyant, that’s the time to let people know that some extra cash can be put towards unemployment benefits.
Hippolyte said it is an important social measure.
However she told St Lucia Times that now is not the time to pay it, because no provision was made for the benefit.
“If we pay that now, somebody has to pay it back,” Hippolyte stated.