As Finance Minister Colm Imbert prepares to deliver his mid-term budget review next week, an insurance executive is appealing to him to make sure the long-delayed Insurance Bill is high on Government's legislative agenda.
Robert Soverall, managing director of Scotia Life of T&T (Scotia Insurance) said even as the Government seeks to devise new strategies to cushion citizens from the effects the recession and the impact of falling energy prices, making the Bill law is too important not to be a priority.
He said more than five years after revisions to the Bill were made and the document put out for public comment, it is time, for key steps in the process to be completed so that insurers can begin conducting business under modern rules.
Citing the fallout from the Clico and Hindu Credit Union debacles, Soverall said there are increasing calls for new capitalisation measures for insurance companies among the suite of recommendations for the protection of policy holders.
Soverall, a director on the board of the Association of T&T Insurance Companies (ATTIC), said the Central Bank had consulted with industry players for more than 60 months, during which time insurance officials were co-operative and participative with practical suggestions on the way forward for the industry.
"We fully support the most recent draft that is available and all the provisions within that Bill. For various reasons, we have not been able to pass that piece of legislation but I am sure that the new insurance legislation will be high on their priority," he said.
"The Bill was last laid in Parliament (in July). When Parliament was prorogued in July it lapsed. What will be required now is for that Bill to be re-laid, there will probably be a Joint Select Committee (JSC) appointed to review all of the technical aspects of the Bill, because insurance legislation is very technical and Members of Parliament would probably want somebody to look at it in detail. Once the JSC reviews it, they would then recommend for both Houses to approve and I suspect that approval will come quickly thereafter," he said.
Soverall said the industry currently operates under the Insurance Act of 1980, which had been drafted many years before it actually came into force. He said there have been many new developments in the financial services sector and in the insurance industry since then.
"That legislation would not necessarily have anticipated all of the developing areas, particularly with regards to products and how they are serviced and how they operate, so that legislation certainly needs to be updated.
"There have been several amendments to that legislation, the most recent being in 2009 citing the challenges a couple of insurance company found themselves in. There were two sets of amendments in 2004 and 2007 but I believe that there is a need to have a full overhaul of the legislation. We will be very happy to see that passed quickly," said.
About the Bill
The Insurance Bill 2015 provides a new regulatory framework for the insurance industry and provides for the regulation of privately administered pension fund plans.
When it becomes law it will repeal the existing Insurance Act, Chap 84.01.
The Bill was introduced in the Senate on April 21, 2015 by Finance Minister Larry Howai and was debated over four sittings in the Upper House. In piloting debate of the legislation, Howai said the process of legislative reform had started several years earlier in 2001 and over that time the Central Bank can conducted extensive consultations with industry stakeholders.
At that time he told the Senate: "What we have sought to do is introduce a Bill that is fairly comprehensive. A lot of work has gone into it, a lot of feedback from their industry, a lot of participation by stakeholders, a lot of time and effort by the regulators to get to the point where we think we have a fairly comprehensive piece of legislation."
The Bill was passed by the Upper House on May 26, with 23 voting in support, none against and four abstentions.
Howai laid the Bill in the House of Representatives on May 27 and it was debated at the sitting of May 29 but lapsed on June 17, 2015.?