Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves says he does not have as yet the details of the unemployment benefit, which he said in his Budget Address will be offered by the National Insurance Services from 2025.
On Wednesday, as Gonsalves was wrapping up the Budget Debate, prematurely, without most lawmakers contributing to it, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday said unemployment insurance is a good idea.
“How would it work and how does it apply to persons who are voluntary contributors?” Friday asked the finance minister.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here … unemployment insurance exists. And the closest neighbour to us is Barbados, which has a very generous unemployment package,” Gonsalves responded.
“We’re not going to reach those levels of generosity but we are going to mimic the package that is available for those who are self-employed or contributing. And I don’t have the exact details here but this is essentially a carbon copy of what is done in the Barbados situation,” The finance minister told Parliament.
“So, they will be covered but the precise details will be announced before we introduce the unemployment insurance and the year for that introduction is 2025,” he said.
In his Budget Address two days earlier, Gonsalves said the NIS will introduce a permanent unemployment benefit starting January 2025.
“This benefit is necessary to broaden the safety net for workers to cover the risk of loss of income due to temporary unemployment,” he said.
He told lawmakers that the International Labour Organisation promotes this initiative.
“In the region, Barbados and The Bahamas introduced permanent unemployment benefits pre-COVID-19, whereas Grenada (in 2023) introduced the permanent unemployment benefit programme post-COVID-19,” Gonsalves said.