Nice try, Mr. Ebanks, but rather than “name and shame,” might not a better approach be “arrest and prosecute”?
One of the first exhaustive investigations by Nicola Williams, our no-nonsense complaints commissioner, upon arriving in Grand Cayman, was to delve into pension abuse. At the time, her office documented 670 businesses which were out of compliance. Make no mistake about it: This was, and is, crime on a massive scale.
Three years later, we learn (again thanks to Ms Williams), that the number of outstanding cases has not diminished but nearly doubled – to 1,144 as of this summer.
Convenient phraseology, such as “being in arrears,” “misuse of funds” or “employer nonpayment” are, of course, nothing more than euphemisms, employed by pedants and public personages to masquerade the real issue which, as anyone on the street knows, is criminal theft.
Ms Williams put it correctly and succinctly: “This is a national crisis which should concern all of us, as many people about to retire will find that they have insufficient funds on which to live … Every week people who have worked all their lives and had pensions deductions made for decades are retiring into unexpected and unplanned poverty.”
Think of the cruelty inherent in Ms Williams’s words.
While errant employers may be visible villains in this miasma, the government deserves even more of the blame. Government created this mess by establishing a private sector pension obligation to go along with the health insurance obligation, and then purposely turned a blind eye to the hundreds of cases of noncompliance.
Just one example: At the Caymanian Compass, we are all too familiar with a competitor in the publishing business who a number of years ago was not paying his pensions, not making his health-care contributions, and, in many cases, not even paying his expatriate staff (several of whom found their way to our offices, looking for jobs, desperate, and thousands of miles from home). We know that the Department of Employee Relations knew about these transgressions, and yet this employer continued to get his trade and business licenses regularly renewed and his work permit applications routinely approved. For the record, elected ministers in the previous government also knew of what this publisher was up to and knowingly ignored it.
Last year, that same UDP announced legislation to revise the outdated National Pensions Law, but left office before that goal was achieved. Now, Employment Minister Tara Rivers has ordered another comprehensive review of the law, with a due date nearly three years hence.
We would suggest that 2016 is far too leisurely a timetable for a law in such obvious disrepair. While we sympathize with Ms Rivers, who inherited a national disaster and potential scandal not of her own making, we would advise her to “take ownership” of this issue, to use that fine legal mind we know she possesses, to get no-nonsense tough – and to fix it.