Home Letters NIS woes cannot be disconnected from sugar minimisation
The October 10 edition of Guyana Times reported that the General Manager of the National Insurance Scheme, Ms Holly Greaves lamented the effects of the shrinking formal workforce in Guyana vis-à-vis the NIS. According to the newspaper article, the NIS’ GM said, at this time, the Scheme receives contributions from “…173,758 active employed persons and 10,734 active self-employed persons”. She went on to point out that “[t]he decline in the active employed population does not augur well for the future of the scheme…”.
The utterances by the NIS GM mirrored what was said in the Scheme’s 2016 Annual Report. That document, at page 100, said “In 2017, there was a reorganisation of GuySuCo leading to the closure of several estates. It is likely that this may have a material impact on the contributions receivable by the Scheme”. It appears, that the Scheme has already begun to feel the material impact it anticipated as evidenced by Ms Greaves’ remarks.
While not wanting to blow our own trumpet, as this certainly is not the time for it, the reality that the NIS faces today was anticipated by the GAWU and drawn to the Government’s attention prior to the closure of sugar estates. The GAWU, in its presentation to the Government of Guyana on February 17, 2017, in expressing its views on the then planned closure of sugar estates pointed out that “[t]he reduction in formal employment and its implications for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS); the effects can be debilitating, especially for the latter”.
Of course, the magnitude of the impact would have been better quantified had the sincere suggestion to pursue a socio-economic impact assessment been pursued. On that score, we had told the Government in February 2017, that “…decisions cannot be made in a slipshod manner, as the consequences and repercussions can be serious, if not disastrous, for our people and nation.” That suggestion was bluntly refused by the representatives of the Government who engaged the Trade Unions in the industry and the political Opposition regarding the future of the sugar industry. In fact, Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, astoundingly, told the Unions and the Opposition to conduct the study since we were making the suggestion.
The situation which the NIS now faces is one for a great degree of concern and worry. Undoubtedly, it has been made more acute by the ill-conceived and patently wrong decision to shutter estates and put thousands on the breadline. It should be pointed out too, that many of the affected workers are, probably, qualified for NIS pensions which they will seek when they obtain pensionable age. In the meantime, the Scheme has lost the benefit of their contributions for many years though it is indebted to them come retirement. This may well make a bad situation worse.
The reality of the NIS is one of the many consequences of the minimisation of the sugar industry. It is an ignominious legacy that is now bequeathed to the current and future generations of Guyanese. Of course the most profound impact has to be the pain, suffering and difficulty experienced by thousands of ordinary Guyanese men, women and children.