Prime Minister Andrew Holness has acknowledged that the court action challenging aspects of his government’s much vaunted National Identification System (NIDS) may delay implementation of the initiative.
NIDS was set to be launched next year.
But the Opposition People’s National Party filed an action in the Supreme Court on May 8, seeking a declaration that sections of the NIDS Act are in breach of the Jamaican Constitution.
The suit is to be heard today, June 8.
During a town hall meeting with the Jamaican diaspora in Canada on the eve of the court hearing, Prime Minister Holness, in response to a question posed, hinted at the likely delay.
“We have an implementation date of 2019. But, as you know, the Opposition has brought the matter to court for the court’s review. That could potentially have some impact, but 2019 is the date [set for implementation],” Prime Minister Holness said.
His administration has marketed NIDS as a ‘highly secure’ system that is designed to house biographic, biometric and demographic information. “Every Jamaican will be afforded a unique identity number and a unique identity card,” Prime Minister Holness noted.
Before he addressed the town hall meeting last night, he told investors at a luncheon in Toronto that NIDS will, among other things, improve the ease of doing business.
“Once we are able to satisfy the requirement of verifying identity, we would be able to take off quite a bit of the compliance issues and the time it takes to certify and verify identity, which will make it much easier for commercial activities,” Prime Minister Holness said.
He also noted that the government recently signed off on a US$68 million loan with the Inter-American Development Bank to facilitate creation of the new digital NIDS platform.
Prime Minister Holness told members of the diaspora that provisions are in the NIDS Act to facilitate provision of the service through Jamaican embassies and consulates. “Members of the diaspora will be able to get their own,” he said.
By Horace Mills