State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore, has warned that stringent action will be taken against employers who fail to turnover National Insurance Scheme (NIS) deductions.
The warning comes amidst discussions about the viability of the scheme, which facilitates pension payments to retired contributors.
Mr. Gallimore was speaking at a national stakeholders forum at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston on June 10, staged by HelpAge International Caribbean Regional Development Centre.
The State Minister said that there are currently 450,000 persons contributing to the NIS, representing about a third of eligible contributors to the scheme. There are some 90,000 beneficiaries, but a $3 billion shortfall between income and expenditure.
State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore (right), greets Chairman of the Brown’s Hall Senior Citizens Association in St. Catherine, Charles Thomas, during the official launch of three publications produced by HelpAge International’s Caribbean Regional Development Centre, on the status of Jamaica’s elderly, at the organisation’s national stakeholders forum at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston on Wednesday (June 10). The publications were officially launched by Mr. Gallimore, who was also the guest speaker at the forum.
“The scheme has sustained itself, and has done well to this point. It has been given a tremendous return on the investment made by its contributors,” Mr. Gallimore assured. He admitted that one problem has been the fact that while there have been several increases in payouts, there has been little change on the income side. However, he said that a recent actuarial study has given the Ministry directions on how to go forward.
He revealed that the administration, through his Ministry, is in the process of “restructuring the contribution aspect”, emphasising the need for stringent measures to deal with delinquent employers.
“We are going to have to be more stringent in dealing with them, when they collect that contribution, which is not their money, (but) your money, (and) fail to turn it over to be invested to pay that benefit when you reach retirement age,” he stressed.
Mr. Gallimore said that with the adjustments being pursued, the NIS will remain intact and viable.
“It has done well for the period that it has been there, and it’s not going anywhere. It is only going to get stronger, with the adjustments that are going to be made,” he said.
Mr. Gallimore also voiced concern that only 25 percent of senior citizens, interviewed in a research conducted by HelpAge International, were aware of the social programmes and benefits available to them from the state.
He said that this was of grave concern, since the country is not short of good programmes (or) good people who are committed to implementing these programmes.
“I want to give you my word and commitment that this statistic of 75 percent of our senior citizens not knowing what sort of assistance is available… is going to change,” Mr. Gallimore said.
“We cannot allow that to happen. We have to find a way to ensure that our senior citizens, across the length and breadth of this island, know that the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) is there to serve them, and know what sort of programmes they can be meaningfully engaged in on a regular basis,” he assured.
The State Minister said that the NCSC has developed a number of programmes utilising the skills of senior citizens, while providing an avenue for interaction. He also pointed out that the organisation and the Ministry were advancing the concept of intergeneration in that process of interaction.
“We want to get that transition, as much as possible, by having our younger people mixed with our elders to transfer information and to continue our culture and traditions, and to carry forward history and best practices,” he emphasised.
Regarding health care for the nation’s seniors, Mr. Gallimore noted the timeliness of the Government’s decision to abolish user fees in public health facilities. He said that statistics garnered from HelpAge International’s research showed that 81 percent of the respondents have health conditions.
He said that 41 percent of these individuals had medical checks done on a quarterly basis which supports the decision.
HelpAge International is a global organisation advocating economic and physical security for disadvantaged senior citizens, through its 74 affiliates in 50 countries. It has over 300 partners, ranging from older people’s associations and community-based organisations to non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, Government and international agencies. Its activities are geared towards assisting senior citizens in fulfilling their potential and leading healthy and secured lives.
The National Council for Senior Citizens is the agency of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, that caters to Senior Citizens in Jamaica. The Council offers a number of programmes and activities that are geared towards improving the quality of life of the seniors.
Wednesday’s HelpAge International forum, held under the theme: ‘Promoting Social Protection for Older Persons’, saw stakeholders with interests in the welfare of the elderly meeting to discuss matters affecting this group.
The forum also saw HelpAge launching three special publications, focussing on Jamaica’s elderly. These are entitled: “A Knowledge Attitude, Behaviour and Practices Study on HIV/AIDS IN Jamaica; “Statistical Analysis of Older People in Selected Communities in Jamaica”; and Report on the National Consultation Situation Analysis of Older Persons in Selected Communities in Jamaica.