The groundbreaking tourism workers’ pension scheme has received the backing of Spanish hoteliers – one of the largest group of investors in Jamaica’s hospitality sector.
The group has however warned that the process must be carefully managed.
Jamaica’s tourism minister Edmund Bartlett met with Spanish hotel interests in Madrid, Spain on Thursday morning to discuss the matter.
Bartlett attended the meeting with Director of Tourism Donovan White and his senior advisor and strategist Delano Sieveright.
Adolfo Ledo Nass
It was felt in several quarters that the Spanish would have been the hardest group to convince, but, following the talks, they have given their support to the plan
According to a press release from the Ministry of Tourism, Spanish hotel tycoon, Abel Matutes, founder of Palladium Hotel Group, owners of Grand Palladium Resort in Hanover, stressed the importance of ensuring that the pension scheme is managed at the highest standards so as to ensure that workers benefit
Matutes was quoted as saying that several pension schemes in the western world have run into serious trouble due to poor management, among other things
Nonetheless, he expressed full support for the new arrangement as a critical “social security” tool for workers of the industry
He was assured by Bartlett that there are systems in place to ensure that the scheme is operated at the very highest standards of governance
The scheme is managed by a Board of Trustees which is currently in the process of identifying an investment manager and an administrator to manage the plan’s investments and operations
The scheme is also tax-exempt and regulated by the Financial Services Commission (FSC)
“As soon as the fund manager has been appointed, J$250 million will be disbursed to seed the fund from the Tourism Enhancement Fund so that if workers who have contributed for only five years and reach their retirement age of 65 will get the same pension as if they contributed for 25 or 30 years,” Bartlett noted
The tourism ministry has been carrying out pension sensitisation sessions across the island to update workers on the next steps of the pension scheme
The scheme is designed to cover all workers ages 18-59 year in the tourism sector, whether permanent, contract or self-employed
This includes hotel workers as well as persons employed in related industries such as craft vendors, tour operators, red cap porters, contract carriage operators and workers at attractions