House tables Tourism Pension Bill

Sunday, May 05, 2019

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Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett fulfilled his promise to table the new the Tourism Workers Pension Act in the House of Representatives during his Sectoral Debate presentation on Tuesday.

The Bill, when passed, will establish a defined pension scheme for tourism workers and self-employed tourism workers to be known as the Tourism Workers Pension Scheme, from which is to be paid retirement benefits in respect of each member and ancillary benefits for beneficiaries.

Bartlett described the introduction of the Bill, as a major game changer for tourism, noting its gestation in the 2007/2011 Jamaica Labour Party Administration led by Bruce Golding.

“It represents not just a historic development in the Caribbean, but the world, as no other country has a comprehensive plan for all tourism workers,” he told the House of Representatives.

Bartlett said that it will start with an endowment of $1 billion from the Ministry of Tourism, which will be paid in installments as may be appropriated by Parliament over a period not exceeding four years, and will ensure that immediate benefits accrue to qualified pensioners who have met the vested period of five years.

“These pensioners will receive a minimum pension of $200, 000,” he stated.

Additional resources will include: contributions from tourism operators on behalf of members within their employment; mandatory and voluntary contributions from members; transferred assets; interests, dividends or other investment income accruing from whatever source and any investments, policies, monies, property and other assets received from time to time.

A board of trustees will operate as a body corporate vested with the administration, investment management and control of the scheme.

To be eligible to become a member, the tourism worker must be over the age of 18 at the date of commencement of the Act, but not has not attained the age of 60 years and is not involved in another approved pension plan; person over 18 years but under the age of 60, who become a tourism worker after the commencement of the Act; and self-employed tourism workers upon approval by the board of an application for membership.

Only persons ordinarily residing in Jamaica for a continuous period of six months before the date of admission will be accepted.

Every tourism operator will be required to remit to the investment manager periodic contributions to the scheme in respect of every worker in his employment who is a member of the scheme, from the deduction of contributions of three per cent over the first three years of the scheme, and five per cent thereafter. Self-employed workers will be required to remit at least once annually the mandatory contribution of three per cent over the first three years and five per cent thereafter.

A tourism operator who defaults on the payment made by and on behalf of a tourism worker to the investment manager will face a fine of $3 million.

Holness explains meeting with Trump

Prime Minister Andrew Holness answered a number of questions from Opposition spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Lisa Hanna, in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Below are the questions which were asked by Hanna and the answers provided by the prime minister:

(1) Will the prime minister disclose the specifics of his recent meeting with President Trump of the United States at Mar-a-Lago?

R esponse: On Friday, March 22, 2019 the leaders of five Caribbean countries — The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and St Lucia — met with the President of the United States Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida. The meeting was initiated by the United States and I was invited to attend by the president of the United States. The Government of Jamaica reviewed the context of the proposed meeting and the invitation and concluded the following:

• The meeting was in keeping with our foreign policy objective, to ensure that Jamaica remains a relevant leader and influential voice in this region;

• The meeting provided an opportunity for Jamaica to discuss our security and economic interests with our largest trading and security partner;

• There was strong sentiment among regional leaders that the United States had not been paying enough attention to the Caribbean as the “Third Border” of the United States. As prime minister and during my tenure as Caricom chairman, I had previously expressed this view publicly and in several fora, meetings and engagements with United States officials, including: the visit of the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; a side meeting with Vice-President Pence at the Summit of the Americas in Peru; and during my visit to Washington, where I met with several US Senate and Congressional leaders, including Marco Rubio, chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The meeting, therefore, provided an opportunity for direct dialogue between leaders of the region and the president of the United States to explore ways of strengthening the bilateral and regional relationships and express and reaffirm the goodwill between the United States and the region.

• The context of the meeting was the wider Caribbean and not specifically Caricom. The invitation was extended on a bilateral basis, nevertheless, the meeting would still provide an opportunity to address issues relevant to all Caricom Member States.

Before meeting with President Trump, the invited leaders had a working meeting with the US National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton. Detailed discussions were had on a range of subjects, including:

• National security and protecting the maritime space of the region, through greater support with assets and information sharing;

• Disaster management and resilience building, within the context of increased frequency and intensity of weather events;

• An increased role in the region for the redefined Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC);

• Blacklisting, de-risking and potential loss of correspondent banking services in Caribbean countries;

• Extension of the Caribbean Basin Initiative/Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) which will allow continued one-way duty-free access for Caribbean goods into the US market beyond 2019

• Energy Security and stronger economic cooperation;

• Situation in Venezuela;

The meeting with President Trump focused more on high-level discussions, with the President wanting to hear the leaders' perspectives on a range of issues including:

• The current economic outlook for each country in attendance, and the region generally;

• Areas in which the US could offer greater support;

• The respective perspectives of the leaders on Cuba;.

Specific concerns were raised by Caribbean leaders about the importance of tourism to the region and the extremely dampening effects that travel advisories and warning on visitor arrivals from the North American market have. The president took a particular interest in this matter, and asked that it be looked into.

A greater role for OPIC in the region, was also discussed as a way to increase investments and support strategic development imperatives of the region particularly in energy and infrastructure.

Jamaica is already working on a cooperation programme with the US through the Treasury Department, in this regard all leaders present expressed concern over the situation in Venezuela and support for a peaceful and sustainable solution to return the country to stable and democratic government.

(2) Has Jamaica given any commitment to the USA that it will be a party of any activity to change the current Government in Venezuela?

Response: No.

This Week's Parliament schedule

Monday, May 6, 10:00 am — Joint Select Committee, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA);

Tuesday, May 7, 9:00 am — Constituency Development Fund Committee;

Tuesday, May 7, 1:00 pm —Ethics Committee;

Tuesday, May 7, 2:00 pm — House of Representatives (Sectoral Debate)

Wednesday, May 8, 10:00 am — PAAC meeting (Ministry of Education, Youth & Information/OPM)

Wednesday, May 8, 2:00 pm — Joint Select Committee Bank of Jamaica (Amendment) Act

Thursday, May 9, 10:00 am — Joint Select Committee, Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) (Anti-Gang) Act, 2014.

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