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Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says the National Insurance Fund (NIF) remains viable, despite its participation in the National Debt Exchange (NDX), and is assuring pensioners that their benefits are not in jeopardy.

The Minister, who was speaking at a church service on Sunday, April 21, in Montego Bay, to mark the 47th anniversary of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), stated that participation of the Fund in the NDX involved reduction in the interest rate, but allowed “access to longer term maturing securities, which helps to maintain the long term viability and sustainability of the Fund.”

“Let me assure all of our pensioners that you can set your minds at ease, as you have absolutely nothing to worry about. The NIF remains strong and vibrant at its current value of approximately $63 billion. Additionally, we continue to maintain sufficient cash flows to satisfy our obligations to our beneficiaries,” the Minister said.

Benefits from the NIS are funded by the NIF. The NIS is a compulsory social security scheme for workers, which provide financial protection to its contributors and their families against loss of income arising from injury on the job, incapacity, retirement or death. It also has maternity allowance for domestic workers, a health plan for all contributors, grant for funeral, widow and widower’s pensions, and orphan’s allowance.

“For many of the over 100,000 pensioners we serve, the NIS benefit is their main source of income, and the NI Gold Health Plan provides access to affordable, quality health care at no additional premium. On January 10 this year, we implemented increased benefit payments for our NIS beneficiaries, with benefits for our pensioners being increased by 16.67 per cent on the flat rate. These increases will see an additional $1.5 billion being paid out in benefits annually,” the Minister informed.

Mr. Kellier said that the NIF Board has, over the years, ensured prudent investment of the Fund’s resources, and that efforts will be redoubled to have great returns on its investments. He also called on employers to remain compliant with the Scheme, especially in paying over the contributions deducted from their employees.

“The prevailing global economic crisis and Jamaica’s ageing population are all reasons for us to redouble our efforts to promote the culture of savings in the Jamaican society, and to expand coverage of the NIS. We pledge our continued efforts to streamline our operations and take advantage of improvements in technology and a joined-up Government approach to improve our efficiency and service delivery,” he said.

By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter