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Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller has said that the government was committed to protecting the interest of pensioners and would continue to periodically review the benefits and programmes for seniors.
She noted that it was as part of this commitment that some $300 million had been earmarked in the 2006/07 budget to provide for the increase in benefits to government pensioners. The Prime Minister was speaking at the Jamaica Government Pensioners Association’s 40th anniversary luncheon on Saturday, September 2.
Referring to the challenges experienced in the financial sector in the 1990’s, Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that had the government not acted swiftly, 55,000 pensioners would have lost their life savings.
“We have since strengthened pension legislation, to ensure that the hard earned savings of people like you are not jeopardized,” she stated, citing the establishment of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), to compliment the work of the Bank of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Deposit Insurance Corporation.
“The new Pensions Act, passed in 2004, provides protection for pensioners by setting out clear guidelines for transparency and accountability in the management and operation of pension funds. It also provides for the registration of trustees and pension funds or schemes, licensing of administrators and investment managers, investigations, termination and winding up, offences and penalties,” the Prime Minister reminded the pensioners.
“All these changes and new provisions have contributed significantly to advancing the interest of pensioners and retirees. The process of reform however, is an ongoing one. Indeed, the FSC is now receiving submissions from existing pension plans, trustees, investment managers and administrators, as part of a broad-based technical review to further refine the legislation so it can serve even better, the interest of pensioners,” the Prime Minister said.
Mrs. Simpson Miller emphasized that it was as a result of prudent investment and management that the balance in the National Insurance fund now stood at $42.2 billion. She noted that over the 15 year period from 1990 to 2005 National Insurance contributions increased three times: In 1990, 1996 and 2003. Over the same period benefits were increased in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2001 and in 2003. Benefits have also been increased this year.
“This extraordinary growth in the NIS has come not mainly through net contributions, but through prudent investment decisions and growth in investment incomes. The last five years have seen a significant growth in net investment income of the fund,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.
The luncheon was held at the Alhambra Inn under the theme: ‘Acknowledging past contributions, dignifying present lifestyles, inspiring continued national service’. The Jamaica Government Pensioners Association, which was founded in 1966, aims to promote the general welfare of pensioners, and make appropriate representations to government in respect of matters affecting the conditions of pensioners.