LEFT OF CENTRE: Make insurance a legal requirement
THE ISSUE: Have insurance companies done enough to encourage property insurance?
IT IS accepted that the importance of tourism is so commanding that when long-stay arrival figures decline, the country’s economists have serious concerns. That is no wonder, because tourism is the country’s main source of foreign exchange.
In contrast, we do not appear to hear similar concern from the important people in Barbados when we see buildings that are regarded as heritage sites in dilapidated condition.
Also, from time to time, we learn of the destruction of homes where families lose all their possessions to fire and most recently to natural disasters like storms, only to find that there was no insurance cover for these vulnerable people.
I firmly believe that our laws should be more concerned with the purchase of property insurance cover than some other goods and services. The people who can least afford to lose
their homes and possessions to fire are the very ones who are falling victim more often than not.
When one considers that insurance companies are cushioned by re-insurers in the mitigation of claims, there is no justification for the way some companies refuse to insure some consumers’ properties.
This is all the more disturbing when those who pay for vehicle insurance will be granted no-claim discounts but no such incentive is offered to home and property coverage customers.
This is so despite the fact that property-insurance losses suffered by the industry are far less than those in vehicular insurance.
On the one hand, there is the fear that insurers do not advertise enough to heighten consumer awareness about the need for liability coverage.
Is it that they are satisfied with the relatively new buildings they insure, accepting fewer possible claims, and have little interest in the chattel homes?
We also have to accept that insurers are not philanthropists and tend to watch their bottom line.
On the other hand, there is a laissez-faire attitude by consumers who do not take responsibilities seriously, convinced that a disaster “will never happen to me”.
I accept that with a social need there comes an economic costs. While I do not support Government input in every area of life, there needs to be some acceptance that the poor among us will always need help.
Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt is a founder and director general of Barbados Consumer Research Organisation.