(Excerpts of Dr. Friday’s presentation at a recently held Public Meeting)
The National Insurance Service is the second issue of discussion here tonight. The Executive Director of the National Insurance Service has essentially said that it is in crisis; that if there isn’t, as he puts it, draconian reforms, that there may be no National Insurance Service as we know it. We know that the government has to basically support it. But when the government supports, it is taxpayers’ money they are putting back in it and we are paying twice for it.
The National Insurance Service is the primary social security system that we have in this country. It is necessary. It must continue. One of the things I learned from Arnhim Eustace over the years, was how serious it is for us as legislators, as members of Cabinet making executive decisions, that we understand the importance of it. And, that we do all in our power to make sure that it is strong and healthy. It must not be the piggy bank of any government.
You cannot owe the National Insurance Service as government, the contributions that you took from your employees and did not pay them in. And, then instead of putting that fresh cash or money into the National Insurance Service, you went and borrowed back money from it to pay for your share. The government did that.
National Properties borrowed money from the National Insurance Service, God knows what. And, when they defaulted on the loan, they had some land; they say you have to take the land because I can’t pay and government will not come up with the cash to pay. So, the National Insurance Service didn’t make an investment in land. They took the land because they couldn’t get the money. The National Insurance Service must never be put in that position by government. Any time they choose an investment is because they feel it will give them the best return they can for the money that they have to invest. Not that the NIS had to take the land because they had no better option.
We had a consultation with the Executive Director of the NIS and a number of his colleagues. And all that is evident, is that a lot of the problems that even the NIS has and a lot of the problems that this country has, come from the fact that fundamentally this government has failed to grow the economy of this country and to provide jobs and economic opportunities for our people. If the economy is growing, more people are employed, there are more people paying NIS, the system becomes more solvent.
Development is about the people
You can’t just have an economy where government goes and borrows money and they are constructing several buildings and they are importing from all over the world; because they have this edifice they can boast about an accomplishment, when development itself is not taking place. Because fundamentally, development is about the people. It is not about buildings. It is not about objects.
In the parliament recently, I asked a question and it had this principle fundamentally in mind about the hotel that they are building out in Diamond. How many of our people, local people, are employed there? And then secondly, are you training our people to take the jobs that you say will become available there permanently when it opens, they say at the end of the year, we know it’s not going to be the end of the year but whenever? And, the answer basically is that they haven’t started yet to think about training people. They will get to it at some point.
So, what will happen? It will open and they’ll bring people in from outside and say, well, we don’t have the people here to do the work.
But it takes preparation, the same kind of preparation that Sir James Mitchell did with the NDP, when they built Ottley Hall, they sent people to Italy, to be trained so they could come back and do their jobs here because development is about people. That is what separates us from the government we have here now. You have all kinds of things that they are bragging about. They built a fisheries complex in Owia, Tell me how many people are working there? It cost $33 million. You spent $33 million and you cannot create ten permanent jobs. And, why is it that the Ottley Hall marina and shipyard is left there to rust and rot? When we know if it is allowed to function properly it can create jobs for 200 young people. But the only reason it is in the condition it is, because it was built by the NDP. I invite anybody to go down and have a look at it. It will make you cry. The only reason I say that is because it was built by the NDP and the people that criticize it at the time, they tried to put Sir James Mitchell in jail because of the Commission of Inquiry. And, then it turns out that the whole thing flopped, but they can’t make it to look like a success.
Meanwhile, the country suffers. These are the things that separate us from this administration, I have said. Ralph, built the airport, I will make it work. That is what governments do. They are building the port down here now. They have financing from the British government, the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank. I will finish it. And we will make it work. I don’t have to prove I’m better than anybody else. But, there’s one thing important that I want to prove is that I serve the people of this country better than anybody else.