EDITORIAL: We breathe a sigh of relief with the old
Barbados is more than an economy after all! Our faith in this Government’s mantra that we are more importantly a society was immediately restored this past weekend, as word came that the National Insurance Department had decided to put the brakes on plans that would have required all pensioners to maintain bank accounts to access their moneys.
We join with this nation’s old people in breathing a collective sigh of relief.
We also praise the NIS and in particular its board for not being too headstrong, and for having the good sense to roll back a not-so-well thought out plan before it was implemented – a step likely to cause our seniors more harm than good.
It is not to say that no one is in support of bringing pensioners into the computer age or to ensure greater levels of efficiency in Government as a whole. But as pointed out by Ed Bushell, the new president of BARP, opening a bank account is not as easy as it seems, especially for those who probably have not gone into a bank in many a year.
Of further concern to BARP, which has some 27 000 members, was that the policy could also pose physical challenges to the elderly. We dare say mental challenges as well for those who had got into a routine of dealing with their financial matters now being forced into a new system of operating.
In announcing the move last week, the NIS director said his department was seeking to avoid situations where pensions have not got to whom they should.
But wouldn’t seniors, particularly those immobile, still require assistance from others anyway?
And is the bank teller a more trusted ally than the family member who you are trying to avoid on suspicion that he or she could be attempting to fleece an older relative?
It was interesting to note the comments of one NIS employee who admitted that the policy was not being executed “with a sense of sensitivity”.
Also, there’s the position of the commercial banks that they are willing to accommodate pensioners even though they are yet to take a position on whether they would waive charges on pensioners’ accounts that fall below the minimum required rate.
It is a good thing that the NIS has decided to wheel and come again.
So how do we go forward? We would like to suggest that if the department is looking at ways to improve administration that perhaps it would want to consider people other than seniors who do business with it.
Take, for instance, those who are serviced with unemployment cheques. These can be sent straight to the bank with minimum inconvenience to recipients, most of whom are agile. But, for God’s sake, don’t seek to confuse our seniors. Let those who are accustomed to receiving their cheques in the mail continue to do so.