As the National Insurance Board (NIB) celebrates 50 years of existence, chairman Patrick Ferreira said the organisation will implement several initiatives to enable it to continue to serve the nation for another 50 years.
Speaking at a cocktail reception on the rooftop of the NIB building, Queen’s Park East, Port of Spain, on Friday, Ferreira said 2022 was a notable year for the organisation.
“We are adding value to our customers' lives with 23 benefits in seven categories, 14 conveniently located service centres and a vision for the future; 2022 also marks the implementation of the Empower ICT project, which will significantly shorten our deliverables to customers and stakeholders in the areas of claims processing, record keeping and organisation efficiency.
“We can now use technology to drive critical service obligations which we could never achieve in a manual environment. Employees will soon go online to file claims, check contributions in real-time and produce statements right away. Employers will be able to go online to manage contributions and make payments. Compliance certificates can be processed in seconds. There will be no need to physically visit a service centre, however, those who are not inclined to utilise the technology can still visit but will not meet long lines or wait a long time for appointments.”
Ferreira said the merger of the Home Mortgage Bank and TT Mortgage Finance will be completed in July, and the new entity, the TT Mortgage Bank Ltd, will result in cost savings through the operational synergies created by the two former companies, redounding to the benefit of customers and enhanced value creation for shareholders.
He thanked the employees who had contributed to the success of the NIB, and said he was proud of their commitment.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert said a 50-year milestone is a significant one. He said the NIB stood as a beacon of hope for the most vulnerable in society.
“The national insurance system became operational on April 10, 1972, with the immediate provision of two benefits – retirement grant and funeral grant. In 1973, sickness, maternity, survivors, and invalidity benefits were introduced. The retirement pension became payable as of February 17, 1975, and today, in excess of 125,000 retirees receive their NIS payment monthly.
“One of the features of the national insurance payment, which is not universally implemented all over the world, is that people can receive both our senior citizen’s pension and the national insurance pension, and in fact, when the means test is done for the senior citizen’s pension which is a non-contributory pension, the national insurance pension is not counted as income, this is quite a unique feature.”
He congratulated the managers of the National Insurance Fund (NIF) and said the income from the fund was sufficient to make up the $1 billion deficit between contributions and benefits in 2021.
“That was a bumper year and it followed an increase in the percentage of investments seen. The fund had a 14 per cent return, and after dealing with the deficit, the fund went up by $2 billion, fantastic, and it’s crossed $30 billion. Congratulations on a fantastic performance in 2021.”
Imbert said the recent bill passed in Parliament to amend the National Insurance Act, Chap. 32:01 would allow businesses outside the system to register during the amnesty period between July 1-December 31.
“It will allow anyone outside of the system who wants to come into the system to be exempt from penalties and interest. We are quite hopeful that a significant number of businesses who are out there unregistered under the radar will take advantage of this amnesty and come into the system. We do believe it will boost the number of businesses registered with the NIB and boost contributions. It is expected to yield for the NIBTT, $161 million in its first year of operation and $792 million over the next ten years.
Acting executive director Feyaad Khan said the organisation’s vision is to be an innovative provider of relevant national insurance.
“Over the past 50 years, we have seen the NIBTT transition through many stages, from its embryonic start-up in 1972 and the expansion of benefits in the 1970s, to organisational transformation in the later decades." He too spoke of the Empower ICT platform which he said "will revolutionise and transform the operations of the organisation.”