FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said on Tuesday the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) had a deficit of $226 million last year.
He made the statement in the House of Representatives during debate on a motion to approve Senate amendments to the Miscellaneous Provisions (Tax Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank and Non-Profit Organisations) Bill, 2019.
Imbert recalled there were allegations during debate on the bill in the Senate on Monday that not allowing transient workers to register for NIS will “deprive the fund of income.” He said “the complete opposite is true.”
Last week Imbert said registered Venezuelan migrants will not have to contribute to NIS but will have to pay taxes, including health surcharge.
He said the NIS fund was never designed for transient workers coming in large numbers and accessing benefits by paying “a pittance of contribution.” He added, “That could destroy the fund.”
The minister said it would be foolhardy, irresponsible and “anti-Trinidadian” to do anything to cause damage to the fund. He said the amendment to Clause Eight of the bill has fixed that problem.
In the fund’s current structure, Imbert said a person can make one NIS contribution of $11 in order to get an injury benefit for one year. He added a person can receive maternity benefits after making ten NIS contributions of $11.
He rejected Opposition claims that he was discriminating against former prime ministers with respect to their pensions.
Declaring he was neither a seer man nor a psychic, Imbert said he had to make inquiries to get the facts. He said Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Basdeo Panday are the only former prime ministers who will benefit from amendments to prime ministers’ pension legislation.
Imbert also said contrary to an Express article, the Government circulated an amendment to legislation governing judges’ pension at 11 am on Monday in the Senate. He said newspapers in TT “don’t go to press at 11 am.”