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NIS shows appreciation to pensioners

NIS shows appreciation to pensioners


by Jamila Soso-Vincent

There was no finer day for the Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to remind senior citizens of the pension increases they are set to receive in the New Year than last Friday, December 19th – the annual Pensioners’ Appreciation Day at the National Insurance Services (NIS).{{more}}

Delivering his feature address, the Prime Minister likened NIS contributions to that of a “susu hand”. However, he was quick to emphasise that the NIS was a much more reliable and profitable way of saving one’s money. Gonsalves pointed out that the benefits derived from the NIS go far beyond the sum that you input. “You get far more than what you put in…”

According to Gonsalves, the pension increase will take effect in January 2009, but pensioners will receive a lumpsum back payment for 2008 before the year ends. He further reminded pensioners that the Non-contributory Age Pension will increase from $30 to $37.50 per week. Those with normal pensions will also reap the rewards. Persons who began receiving their pension prior to 2007 will benefit from a 9 per cent increase, whilst those who got their pensions in 2007 and after will gain a 4.5 per cent increase. Moreover, senior citizens will receive a special Christmas bonus of $75. There will be a $250 bonus for public servants and those in the central government who have worked 150 days or more in the year. Those who have worked less than that will only get half the bonus.

Gonsalves bestowed much praise on former Prime Minister Robert Milton Cato, who started the National Provident Fund, which was essentially the foundation of today’s NIS. He also commended the hard work and efforts of the staff members of the NIS, Ministry of Finance and the Account General’s Office.

The Prime Minister encouraged his audience to be more fastidious about saving their money. “Part of our weaknesses in practical life is that when we get our money, we love to spend it. We don’t know how to save.” Additionally, Gonsalves impressed upon the public to remember that Christmas is, “…a commemoration and a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” and that it doesn’t signify a time of unnecessary spending.

He also lamented the fact that too many people shy away from making regular contributions to the NIS. “In your sunset years, you are going to need this money! There are several benefits being under the NIS… you are also contributing to the savings and development of the country.”

Retired Educator Annelle Thomas, who was one of the first employees at the National Provident Fund when it began in 1969, made remarks on behalf of the pensioners present. Thomas highlighted the importance of the NIS as it allows those of pension age to cope with the “…escalating cost of living today.” She, too, praised the hard work of all those who have contributed to make the NIS what it is today. “Those who had the vision to establish the NIS must be congratulated for this achievement,” Thomas remarked.

Deputy Chairman of the National Insurance Board Elroy John and Executive Director Reginald Thomas also addressed the gathering. John promised that there would be a pension review every three years, and that the NIS will continue to collaborate with the government to ensure that healthcare is: “…available, accessible and affordable.” Extolling the benefits of the NIS, Thomas mentioned that between 1992 and 2008, benefits amounting to $126.9 million have been paid out to NIS contributors. He further pointed out that this year $18.7 million will be paid out; as opposed to $6.5 million in 2000.

The Pensioners’ Appreciation Day was an all day event that allowed pensioners the opportunity to socialise and interact with NIS staff. Additionally, the pensioners were treated to snacks and lunch. On display was an exhibition of arts and crafts made by senior citizens at the Golden Years Activity Centres.

Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Chairperson Pastor George Frederick stated: “You cannot bring about prosperity by spending more than you earn!”