THE EDITOR: In his budget speech, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said the Government is offering loans to so-called small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) whose annual gross revenues are between $500,000 and $25 million. Good for those business owners. Not so good for their employees. Why?
In Imbert’s own words, “the Government has agreed to relax the immediate requirement for SMEs to be up-to-date with their payments to the Board of Inland Revenue and the National Insurance Board (NIB). SMEs in the new loan programme will now be required to be up-to-date only for the year ended December 31, 2018…”
So, business owners are getting access to public funds, but they do not have to pay their legally mandated contributions to the NIB. So who gets the nasty end of the stick? The workers, of course.
So many workers are already under pressure from employers who do not remit their contributions and now the Government, instead of encouraging the NIB to vigorously pursue employers who engage in this criminal act, is telling them it’s okay to leave workers unprotected when they have need to access National Insurance Scheme (NIS) benefits like sick benefits, maternity benefits, invalidity benefits, funeral grants, survivors’ benefits, etc.
But the NIS Act states quite clearly that failure to remit contributions is a criminal offence. Can the Government waive employers’ obligations without amending legislation to that effect? And what does that say about the attitude of the Government toward those who are struggling to keep their families’ bodies and souls together – the have-nots? And what does it say about the Government's attitude towards the haves?
The Bankers Association has applauded the Government’s position. It stated, “Relaxation of criteria for SMEs to be current with payments to the Board of Inland Revenue and the NIB to access the Government’s loan stimulus facility is a much-needed relief for qualifying businesses to access loan facilities necessary to help them re-establish themselves.”
So there you have it, champagne and caviar for the elites; dutty water and dog food for the masses.