The Government’s plans to resume efforts toward establishing a national identification for all Jamaicans suffered a serious financial setback with a significant reduction in funding in the newly tabled First Supplementary Estimates 2020/21.
According to the estimates tabled by Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke on Wednesday, the $1.6 billion which had been included in the capital estimates last month will be reduced by $720 million to $895 million.
However, since late 2019, a closer relationship between the Government and the Opposition on the issue has been detected. This led to a meeting between members of the National Identification Systems (NIDS) team and representatives of the Opposition in early January, indicating a willingness on the part of the Opposition to support a new Bill.
The Opposition’s team at the meeting was reportedly led by its leader, Dr Peter Phillips, and included spokesman on science and technology, Julian Robinson.
Key strategies and a legislative framework were among the issues discussed.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has publicly stated his Government’s intention to resume work on the NIDS legislation, and had promised to issue new drafting instructions with increased oversight and security provisions towards tabling a new Bill early this year. However, just weeks after successfully piloting the 2020/21 estimates of expenditure through the House of Representatives in April, the Government was forced by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to bring new supplementary estimates to the House on Wednesday, reflecting the drastic cut in funding.
Under the Inter-American Development Bank-funded programme, aimed at implementing a system to provide “a secure, reliable, and unique method of authenticating an individual’s identity” in Jamaica, the Government had spent approximately $1 billion primarily on developing business processes at the the Registrar General’s Department (RGD). The Government also has been focusing on the initial upgrade of the system to address urgent needs at the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency.
In December 2017, the Inter-American Development Bank approved a US$68 million loan for NIDS and other projects in Jamaica. The House of Representatives approved the National Identification and Registration (NIDS) Act in 2018. However, passage of the Bill was contested in court by the Opposition People’s National Party in May 2018, resulting in a Supreme Court decision to strike down sections of the Act which were deemed unconstitutional.
Anticipated targets for this year include upgrading the technology infrastructure at the RGD and equipping a data centre there to enable digital birth certificates and revising the NIDS policy and Bill.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive