KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says he will write to the National Insurance Services (NIS) asking for a review of a system he says could disqualify hundreds of Vincentians from receiving pensions.
Eustace raised the issue on Saturday for the third time this week after one of his East Kingstown constituent recently found out that although she has reached the retirement age of 60 she will not receive an NIS pension because she did not make 500 contributions to social security institution.
Eustace, a former chair of the NIS, said that the constituent does not qualify for a pension although she has surpassed the 300 contributions required when she joined the NIS.
Hans King, press secretary to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, quoting NIS Executive Director Reginald Thomas, said on radio last week that the number of contributions required for a worker to be pensionable has increased incrementally since the NIS was founded in 1987.
In 1987, a worker had to make 150 contributions before retirement to qualify for 16 per cent of their last salary as a pension.
A worker now needs to make 500 and will get 30 per cent of their salary.
But Eustace thinks that the system is unfair and should be reviewed.
“When a person enters a government scheme on the understanding that I make 300 payment I going to get a pension for life and I [am] going to get a cheque every fortnight until I die, and when I have done that, and I reach 60 and I go to you (NIS), you’re telling me it is now 500, that ain’t my fault,” he said.
“So, I am saying the NIS has to review all of that,” Eustace further said at an Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) rally in Campden Park.
“Something has to be done about that. The NIS has to look back and come with a new conclusion,” he further stated.
Eustace said that he would write to the NIS communicating a suggestion from a “knowledgeable” person that the NIS pays a pension that reflects, proportionally, the number of contributions such retirees made.
“The NIS will have to look at these issues and make a decision,” he said.
Eustace said that the NIS benefits from the system that disqualifies retirees who have been affected by the incremental increase.
“The NIS itself, as an institution, is financially better off because of that,” he said, but added, “That is people’s living you are dealing with, that is people’s families you are dealing with, that is people’s lives you’re dealing with, that is children’s lives you are dealing with. …
“These are things that [Prime Minister Dr. Ralph] Gonsalves should be dealing with instead of flying up and down all about and we can’t see any benefits from the flying.
“You will find out in due course, when a proper study is done that there are hundred of people who are in that position.”
According to Eustace, the average civil servant will have to work full-time for ten years in order to amass the 500 contributions and many daily paid workers will never make that many contributions.
“The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the National Insurance Board, I am calling on them today to look carefully into this matter… This is serious matter you know. I am not going to be lying down on that. I am going to be talking about this matter every day. The NIS must take it into consideration. Gonsalves, as Minister of Finance, must take it into consideration. And I don’t want to hear no foolishness,” Eustace said.