Pension shake-up causes concern

While both
pension providers and regulators in the Cayman Islands
have privately admitted for some time that the current system isn’t working
properly, there have been some concerns expressed about government’s latest
proposal to fix the problem.

Education
Minister Rolston Anglin told the Caymanian Compass last week that government
was at least considering the abolition of Cayman’s National Pensions Office,
shifting that agency’s responsibility partly to the Cayman Islands Monetary
Authority and partly to the Department of Employment Relations. 

Mr. Anglin’s
comments were made the day before Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams
announced her office was investigating the national pension system and why some
670 companies were delinquent with payments owed to employees.

Both National
Pensions Board Chairman Orren Merren and Deputy Chair Rhonda Kelly had not responded
by press time to Compass questions regarding government’s proposed shake-up, or
the complaints commissioner’s probe.

Acting
Pensions Superintendent Amy Wolliston also did not respond to questions by
press time.

The only
National Pensions Board member who did go on the record about the issue was
local business owner William Adam.

“Since
the inception of the National Pensions Law in 1997 making pensions mandatory,
it is a fact that all government administrations have miserably failed to
support the National Pensions Office and the National Pensions Board,” Mr.
Adam said. “Government launched the good vessel ‘pension’ before it was
ready.”

“Pirates
– employers – are also stealing the cargo even before it can be loaded on the
vessel and the pension police virtually ignore calls from the crew to defend
the cargo,” he continued.

Mr. Adam also
expressed concern about moving the regulatory functions now handled by the
pensions office to the monetary authority.

“Now, in
the middle of a financial hurricane, government is reported to be proposing to
split the cargo between two other vessels – Labour Office and CIMA – with
records of not protecting Cayman Islands workers,” Mr. Adam said.
“This is not good seamanship, nor good governance.”

Mr. Anglin
stressed that no final decision has been made, and that government officials
planned to meet with the pensions board this week to discuss the matter.

He noted that
the change-over, at least on the regulatory side, has happened with other industries
in Cayman.

“Don’t
forget that before [Cayman] used to have a superintendent of banks and a superintendent
of insurance…they are now all housed at CIMA…” he said.

In fact,
former Pensions Superintendent Cyril Theriault even questioned why his position
was needed. Mr. Theriault’s comments came during a Chamber of Commerce event
last year (see Compass, 18 June, 2009 “Human Resources Authority
considered”). 

There are
other models used by the Cayman Islands
government – for instance, in the provision of health care – where the
regulatory duties are handled by the monetary authority and a separate
board takes care of labour and product quality issues. 

The Health
Insurance Commission is established to take care of complaints in those
areas. 

Eventually,
however, Mr. Anglin said he’d like to move all labour-related
complaints under one roof – possibly the Department of Employment
Relations. 

“So you
have a one-stop shop for your labour infractions,” he said. 

Mr. Anglin
said he hadn’t heard Mr. Adam’s comments about perceived shortcomings at the
monetary authority and the labour department expressed in a public forum.

“I
haven’t heard that complaint in insurance, and every insurance company has
policyholders, every bank has banking deposits,” he said. “Anyone
that’s saying that might tell me that it’s someone with a vested interest, that
is either ill-informed or who will resist change.”

Mr. Adam said
his sole concern was for the Cayman Islands
and the future health of the retirement system.

“If these
changes are made then future generations’ workers [will be] highly taxed to
fund old people’s sustenance payments and their pension funds will be siphoned
off,” he said.

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