The announcement by the Government that it will eliminate life certificates as proof that an individual is still alive — in order to receive National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and/or government pension benefits — is an idea whose time has most assuredly come.
The killing off of life certificates is among other critical plans announced under the national identification system (NIDS) which, like so many other government initiatives, is painfully slow regarding implementation, but we remain hopeful.
Making his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister Floyd Green could simply have dusted off last year's presentation where NIDS is concerned.
We are, of course, aware that the 2017 NIDS legislation was struck down in court after being challenged by several interests in 2020 on grounds of breaching certain privacy rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution of Jamaica. But the new legislation is taking too long to come to fruition.
Mr Green might have lost enthusiasm after that setback, but we sincerely hope that he has recovered sufficiently to resume with even greater fervour his pursuit of the NIDS.
We would love to hear from him on this score, because NIDS is absolutely key to our future development as a country.
At present, Jamaica does not have a central national database with the accompanying systems to support secure, reliable identity verification and authentication. The various systems issue different numbers based on the diverse standards and are not necessarily able to connect and share information with each other. Therefore, it opens up the potential of individuals assuming multiple identities.
A national identification system can provide the Government a better understanding of our population, which enables more accurate assessment of national needs, making it more focused in delivering social services and achieving greater returns on social investments, monitoring money and resource flow across the country, while helping in the detection of crime.
Still, Minister Green caught our attention with the news about the end to life certificates; his online will-drafting plan; and the capturing of information about Jamaicans who die overseas but are brought home to be buried.
In the preparation of a life certificate, large numbers of Jamaica's poorest people are forced to find a justice of the peace, who, according to law, must know them sufficiently to sign their forms. This often proves to be a tall order.
Without the life certificate every four months, the NIS office does not deliver the paltry cheques, assuming that the beneficiaries are dead. So a new, better way of doing it is most welcome.
The online will-drafting via the Registrar General's Department (RGD) will potentially help reduce the many often fatal clashes among families over inheritances or "dead lef", in cases where relatives die intestate.
We admit to being taken aback that, as the minister disclosed, many Jamaicans who die overseas and are taken back home for burial, are not captured in the RGD's records. Efforts to close these loopholes are also important.
Minister Green, if even just to earn your whopping new salary, let's get to work.
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