Dear Editor: What Imbert’s new SME proposal may reveal about political behaviour

“[…] So many workers are already under pressure from employers who do not remit their contributions and now, instead of encouraging the NIB to vigorously pursue employers who engage in this criminal act, the government is telling them it’s okay to leave workers unprotected when they have need to access NIS benefits like sick benefits, maternity benefits, invalidity benefits, funeral grants, survivors’ benefits, etc.

“[…] The NIS Act states quite clearly that failure to remit contributions is a criminal offence. Can the government legally waive employers’ obligations without amending the legislation that governs that provision?”

The following Letter to the Editor discussing an important provision in the Minister of Finance’s 2022 budget pertaining to loans for SMEs was submitted to Wired868 by Gerry Kangalee of Rambert:

Photo: Minister of Finance Colm Imbert during his budget presentation on 7 October 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

In his Monday 4 October budget speech, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said the government is offering loans to so-called small and medium enterprises (SMEs) whose annual gross revenues are between $500,000 and $25 million. Good for those business owners. Not so good for their employees. Why?

In Imbert’s own words the government has ‘agreed to relax the immediate requirement for SMEs to be up-to-date with their payments to the Board of Inland Revenue and the National Insurance Board’. SMEs in the new loan programme ‘will now be required to be up-to-date only for the year ended December 31 2018’.

Business owners are getting access to public funds, but they do not have to pay their legally mandated contributions to the National Insurance Board.

So who gets the shitty end of the stick? The workers, of course!

So many workers are already under pressure from employers who do not remit their contributions and now, instead of encouraging the NIB to vigorously pursue employers who engage in this criminal act, the government is telling them it’s okay to leave workers unprotected when they have need to access NIS benefits like sick benefits, maternity benefits, invalidity benefits, funeral grants, survivors’ benefits, etc.

Image: An unsympathetic view on the value of labour unions.

But the NIS Act states quite clearly that failure to remit contributions is a criminal offence. Can the government legally waive employers’ obligations without amending the legislation that governs that provision?

And what does that say about the attitude of the government toward those who are struggling to keep their families’ bodies and souls together, the Have-nots. And what does it say about the government’s attitude towards the Haves?

The Bankers Association applauded the government’s position.

“Relaxation of criteria for SMEs to be current with payments to the Board of Inland Revenue and the National Insurance Board to access the government’s loan stimulus facility,” it said, “is a much-needed relief for qualifying businesses to access loan facilities necessary to help them re-establish themselves.”

So there you have it: champagne and caviar for the elites, dutty water and dog food for the masses.

Image: A satirical take on the relationship between businesses and unions.
(Copyright Carol Simpson)

There is a high-profile politician who recently invited a citizen to kiss his arse. Are we allowed to wonder whose arses politicians are invited to kiss?

And their response?

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