MONTEGO BAY, St James — Dangling the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) as enticement, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has invited stakeholders in the global insurance industry to brainstorm with him and create a scheme for the recovery of Caribbean workers in the tourism and agriculture sectors affected by major natural disasters.
"I have a Tourism Enhancement Fund and there are the hotel associations; let's have meetings. Let's sit down to work [it] through," Bartlett appealed.
Once a self-financing entity, the TEF has been a budget-funded entity since 2017. It is responsible for collecting fees paid by air and sea passengers and ensuring that these funds are paid directly to the Consolidated Fund. It is unclear how the funds would be accessed and used in any collaboration with an initiative from the insurance sector.
Bartlett's call came during his address on the second day of the Insurance Association of the Caribbean's (IAC) 41st Annual Caribbean Insurance Conference at Hyatt Ziva Resort, Montego Bay, St James, on Monday. He was speaking on the topic: 'The Insurance Industry's Role in the Pursuit of Sustainability'.
"I am prepared to sit with you to look at a tool for the workers because more hurricanes are going to come. There are floods, and we have had some heavy rains in Jamaica in the last few days. What happens to the workers when their little house [is] washed out and the little farmer whose little one-acre plot is washed out? We need to give them some peace of mind. Let's think about how we can do it," he urged.
"You are the ones with the ideas. Let's think outside of the box, let's find a tool that enables — whether we are going to bundle the workers together or we are going to treat them as companies, or whatever — [us] to make the rates affordable. I will come in and see if I can add something to that to make it affordable to protect the workers of the most vulnerable industries in the Caribbean: tourism and agriculture," the minster added.
He stressed that workers in these sectors are also the ones at the lowest end of the employment totem pole.
"When disruptions hit, those workers are among the last to recover, if at all," Bartlett said, adding that loans are not helpful as these will saddle the already vulnerable with debt.
The three-day conference is being held under the theme: 'Building Sustainability… the Point of No Return'.
The objective of the gathering is to provide an information-sharing and collaborative forum for Caribbean insurance regulatory authorities, insurance educational institutes, actuaries and other special groups with interest in the region's insurance industry.