Jamaica’s senate expected to pass national ID and registration bill

Jamaica’s National Identification and Registration Act, 2017, which seeks to establish an identification system for citizens and residents, is expected to be passed at the next sitting of the Senate.

The move comes a few months after Prime Minister Andrew Holness initially pledged the government’s commitment to making the establishment of the National Identification System (NIDS) a priority.

The government is seeking to secure funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to develop the identification system, which is being implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister.

At the beginning of the November 3rd debate on the Bill in the Upper House, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith explained that the administration has a small time frame to secure sufficient funds.

“There is a timeline that is important to us, in respect of securing IDB funding for the implementation of the project,” Johnson Smith said. “If we are to have the matter before the board in time for us to stick with an effective timeline, that is to get it before their November board meeting, then we will have to pass it (the bill) next week Friday.”

Under the bill, the government would establish and regulate the National Identification System (NIDS) for the registration, verification and authentication of the identity of citizens and other residents of Jamaica.

In addition, the government would establish the National Civil and Identification Database to create national identification cards.

The government assures the system would be comprehensive and secure with anti-fraud features, with very Jamaican provided with a unique identification number.

The system aims to improve governance and management of social, economic and security programs.

Johnson Smith, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, called on members of the Senate to submit recommendations or inquiries about the bill by next week.

“I would welcome if there are outstanding issues, on reading the amendments, if you would submit (suggestions) for amendments so that the technical people can look at them to help us to move with alacrity,” Johnson Smith said. “It is critical that we close on Friday and therefore anything that we can do to make the process move more effectively, would certainly be welcomed.”

Smith said that once the NIDS is implemented it will have a positive, lasting impact on the country and will improve the method in which the government conducts business as well as improve the lives and productivity of citizens.

“The NIDS will provide us with one ID to make our lives better, one ID opening new possibilities for truly inclusive economic growth and job creation, one ID to positively transform Jamaica into a digital economy,” Johnson Smith said.

Debate on the bill — which was approved in the Lower House in late September with 100 amendments — was suspended until the next sitting of the Senate.

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