We presented two pieces where we provided some details regarding the spending activities between the current government and the NIS. We did so considering the public discussion that began several weeks ago since the Minister of Finance announced several measures aimed at reforming the system.
In this piece, we attempt to summarise all of that, by asking if the NIS funds were used for the political advancement of the ULP? To help us, we will quote from the 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2020 manifestos of the ULP; specifically, anything related to the activities that we outlined in our previous two pieces.
2005 Manifesto (Better… by Far!)
Previous 5 years achievements:
- “Built two Golden Years Day Activity Centres for the Elderly at Black Point and Cane Grove.” Remember we listed these are being done with $750,000 donated by the NIS.
- “Almost completed the construction of a modern multimillion dollar headquarters for the National Insurance Services.” Recall we were told that this was ultimately done at a cost of $20 million.
- “Renovated and modernized the Arrowroot Factory at Owia”. We included this considering that the NIS bought the assets of the arrowroot industry for $11.4 million.
- “Built two additional courts at the Villa Tennis Centre at a cost of $532,000 …Rebuilt, renovated or refurbished dozens of sporting facilities relating to the major sports of cricket, football, netball, basketball and tennis”. We thought it was fair to include these because as we know, the National Lotteries borrowed from and has outstanding loans to the NIS. We were also told that part of the NL mandate includes sporting facilities.
2010 Manifesto (We Naaah Tun Back!):
- “Renovated Victoria Park and put in flood lights to play football. The floodlights alone cost in excess of $300,000.” Again, we thought it was fair to list this here since the National Lotteries has taken loans from the NIS.
- “Constructed a modern multi-million-dollar headquarters for the National Insurance Services.”
- “Support to the housing construction industry through a number of other measures including the 100-percent mortgages for public servants through the State-owned National Commercial Bank (NCB)”. We told you that this was done via an initial $5 million deposit from the NIS.
In the next term/5 years:
- “Building up the National Student Loans Company especially to facilitate economically-disadvantaged students.” Recall that we were told that as of 2020, the NIS total active student loan portfolio now spans 550 students and $28.3 million.
- “Strengthening the National Insurance Services (NIS) and the Social Safety Net systems”. Recall the non-contributory recipients.
- “Build two more Golden Years Centres: One in the Kingstown area, the other in Marriaqua;”
- “Increase payments to recipients under the Non-Contributory NIS provisions by at least $30 monthly in 2011, and under the Public Assistance Programme by one quarter (25 percent);”
2015 Manifesto (Labour Love)
Over the next 5 years:
- “Increase payments to recipients under the Non-Contributory NIS programmes and Public Assistance by at least $50 monthly over the next five years, starting with an increase of $25 in January 2016;”
2020 Manifesto (Lifting SVG Higher):
“A snapshot of the progress of the NIS under the ULP government included the following:
Tackling Poverty and Inequality
(i) In addition to the contributory pension and other benefits, the NIS provides two noncontributory pensions: (a) the Non-Contributory Age Pension, initiated in 1997, has paid out $37 million thus far; it has currently 413 beneficiaries;
(b) the Elderly Assistance Benefit, instituted in 2009, has paid out $4.9 million, thus far; it has 184 beneficiaries currently.
(ii) Temporary Unemployment Benefit, part of the COVID-19 “Salvation Package”, has at 31st August, 2020, 1,590 beneficiaries with a payment of $1.5 million.
iii) Administering the Displacement Supplementary Income Support Programme, another initiative of the government during COVID-19: $2.2 million paid, as at 31st August, 2020, to 3,006 hotel/hospitality sector workers; and $300,000 to 886 sailors/seafarers.
Building Human Capital
(i) Loaned $20 million to the National Student Loan Company to on-lend to Vincentians pursuing university education.
(ii) Spent annually approximately $400,000 to students who are successful in CSEC and CAPE Exams: This started in 2005; up to end of 2019, $4.6 million spent.
Improving Housing Conditions
(i) NIS granted a particular purpose loan of $10 million to BOSVG to assist in the provision of 100 percent mortgage financing to civil servants.
(ii) NIS and the Government Employees Cooperative Credit Union (GECCU) have jointly embarked on a significant Land development initiative at Peter’s Hope on 57.2 acres of freehold land (36.6 acres are saleable) for low-and-middle income earners. The development is expected to cost $15.1 million.
Strengthening Health Services
(i) NIS partnered with the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to donate a CT Scan Machine to the Ministry of Health.
(ii) Loan of $7.0 million granted towards the construction of the Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre (MMDC) at Georgetown; also donated top-of-the-line ambulance cost of $540,000 to the MMDC.
(iii) Donated $1.0 million to Ministry of Health to fight the Zika virus.
(iv) Contributed $750,000 in 2020 to assist in financing the National Isolation Facility as part of the preparation to fight COVID-19.
Promoting the Well-being of the Elderly
(i) NIS built two Golden Years’ Activity Centres in Cane Grove (2004) and Black Point (2005)
(ii) Provides $60,000 annually to assist with the operations of these two centres.”
On page 62 of the 2020 manifesto where some of this progress is recorded, there is a photo with caption: “NOTE: In all of these NIS advances Dr. Mineva “Minnie” Glasgow, the ULP Candidate for South Leeward has been outstanding!”
Mineva’s Linked profile has a title of “Deputy Executive Director at National Insurance Services”.
Remember that the manifesto is a production of the political party and is usually launched and presented at perhaps the biggest political rally of the election season, where scores of party supporters revel and cheer in the hopes and dreams of promises offered by the party. In the case of the incumbent, or previous government, achievements may also be listed. All of this is done with the intention of enticing voters.
Given all that we know now, can the conclusion be drawn that NIS funds were used for the political advancement of the ULP? We gave you the details from the records of the Parliament. Now, we give you some details from the party’s manifesto. Merging them together, can such a conclusion be made?
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].