Amid public outcry over a decision by the Government to discontinue the issuance of Old Age Pension for Guyanese living overseas, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) has clarified that the decision was not related to the pension offered by the Scheme.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) Dianne Baxter was quoted in the Guyana Times as saying that pensioners should not be alarmed, since the restriction would not in any way affect their NIS pension as she made clear the distinction between the two annuities.
“The pension paid by NIS is related to a person’s contribution toward the National Insurance Scheme,” she said, explaining that to qualify for this pension a person should have 750 contributions – which can be calculated as approximately 15 years of contributing to the scheme.
Old Age Pension, on the other hand, is a monthly payment ($18,200 at present) available to eligible Guyanese aged 65 or older.
Baxter remarked that if the person resides overseas it would not affect them qualifying for the NIS pension, since they would have made their contributions while being employed here. She stated that persons have been calling, confused about the two pensions and inquiring if their NIS annuity would also be severed.
There has been outrage at the decision by the Government to stop the Old Age Pension of overseas-based Guyanese.
Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence dismissed the current system, stating that it opened the door to ‘double dipping’, whereby a person not living in Guyana can access a pension from both the Guyanese Government and the country in which they live.
Under the ‘new’ system, persons desirous of accessing Old Age Pension will have to be resident in Guyana for a minimum of two years. The law stipulates that the Old Age Pension benefit can be suspended or forfeited if any person is absent from Guyana for more than two years or subjected to imprisonment or detention in legal custody.
According to the Old Age Pension Act (Chapter 36:03), applicants must meet certain statutory conditions to qualify for Old Age Pension, which includes being 65 or over; satisfying the appropriate authority that she/he has been a citizen of Guyana for at least 10 years immediately preceding his [her] claim for a pension; and residing in Guyana during the 20 years immediately preceding his [her] claim for pension.
Persons receiving Old Age Pension may become disqualified if that person is a resident in a charitable institution that provides board and lodging, is in prison or has migrated.
Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira on Wednesday reprimanded the Government for implementing the restriction. Teixeira stated that the rationale provided by the Government for this decision was far from sound, noting that it was utterly unfair that Guyanese living abroad were being denied their entitlement.