Fri | Oct 18, 2019

Blame game! - McNeill, Bartlett in spat over proposed tourism workers pension scheme

Published:Sunday | December 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera
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WESTERN BUREAU:

Opposition Spokesman on Tourism Dr Wykeham McNeill is incensed by the constant delay in the introduction of the long-promised tourism workers pension scheme.

According to McNeill, when he demitted office in 2016, "everything was in place" for a full roll-out of the scheme, including a memorandum of understanding with the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) to start a contributory pension scheme for the entire sector.

He said the scheme was to have started in January 2017, but Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has missed four deadlines that were set by the tourism ministry since then.

"One of the things I fought for most was the pension scheme, and I must say it here today, I am distressed, annoyed, angry. We are now at the end of 2018 and the pension scheme still has not been brought to Parliament.

"I feel it is a disgrace because, quite frankly, it is the thing that will make a paradigm shift in tourism," said McNeill during his keynote address at the annual meeting of the UDrive Association of Jamaica last week.

But in a quick response, Bartlett told The Sunday Gleaner that McNeill's assertions were unfounded and his anger misdirected.

 

APPRECIATE THE WORK

 

Bartlett argued that during his tenure as tourism minister, McNeill had, among other things, failed to create even a draft of the legislation to move the scheme into reality.

According to Bartlett, the former minister should "appreciate the preparatory work that has had to be done" to enable the ministry to take the scheme further.

"He should not speak, because he had four years when he didn't even take it to Cabinet. It never even reached to the stage where you had a draft of the legislation. We are only two and a half years into the period and we are discovering quite a bit of the deficiencies of that period which we now have to be correcting," Bartlett argued.

"I must say he has no basis on which to be (angry); because we had to do all the dirty work. We discovered all the deficiencies that were in the first arrangements. We literally had to take it and replan it, because, for example, the FSC (Financial Services Commission) had no notion of what to do with the plan," added Bartlett.

He said the tourism ministry is being very meticulous as the tourism workers pension plan has no precedent anywhere in the world, and as a consequence there is no benchmarking that can provide guidance.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com