Bartlett touts regional insurance for tourism workers

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has challenged insurance companies to formulate a comprehensive health plan for the more than one million tourism workers across the region.

Speaking at the Caribbean Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (CARAIFA) Hall of Fame Induction for Maxim Marquez at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa on Sunday night, Bartlett told participants from the 15 nations that Jamaica’s Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme (TWPS) could serve as a template for the proposed health scheme for workers across the region.

“We are the only country in the world that has a comprehensive workers’ pension plan for tourism workers but we need a comprehensive health plan for the workers in the industry. And so, that’s my second challenge to you — to craft an instrument that will enable a health security insurance arrangement for the workers of the tourism industry in the Caribbean,” the minister urged.

He added, “We are talking about the opportunities for insurance companies to become part of that whole programme, and we want to establish a health security arrangement insurance fund for the workers of the industry.”

It is an issue, he said, that he has already broached with at least one regional head of government.

“I just left the CTO [Caribbean Tourism Organization] and the CHTA conference in Barbados, and with Prime Minister Motley we sat down talking about just that. We want to establish now a full pension plan across the Caribbean,” Bartlett disclosed.

Referencing the Government of Jamaica’s partnership with Sagicor and Guardian Life to execute the TWPS, he pointed to the opportunities available for other insurance companies with the roll-out of a regional pension plan that would have “tremendous implications for capital formation within the Caribbean”.

“If that pension plan is taken across the region in the way that Jamaica has it, it has the potential to create a level of domestic savings the size of which the region would never have seen and would provide now a pool of… low-cost funds — owned by people of the Caribbean — for an investment in the Caribbean so that the money that returns from that stays in the Caribbean for the building of the wealth of the Caribbean,” the tourism minister argued.

Of the one million employees in the Caribbean’s tourism sector, Bartlett reminded, 643,000 of them work directly within the industry.

During his speech he also urged insurance companies to educate those who may have a myopic view of their industry.

“We want you to now start a whole programme with our educational institutions to help establish innovation incubators where young people can learn about financial administration, can learn about how to use their money properly and wisely. To learn what insurance is all about and that it is not a case where you just want to take somebody’s money now and give them a hope of 50 years down the road but [instead] you are teaching them how to convert and to become wealthy while they await that 50 years,” Bartlett charged.

“If we follow those lines I think we can make it. We have shown the world that we can with tourism, let us now show the world that we can, together with all the other elements, and that insurance becomes not a means of enabling wealth creation but a means also of building capital,” he added.

During his speech the minister also provided an update on the performance of Jamaica’s tourism sector.

“Between January 1, 2023 and May 10, 2023 we received 1,586,303 total visitors — stopover and cruise — earning US$1.69 billion [and] putting our destination on par with 2019 record figures,” Bartlett disclosed.