…says Finance Ministry input, multistakeholder effort neededFinance Minister Winston Jordan had challenged the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to make changes to its investment structure for better results. However, according to the entity itself, the Finance Ministry has a responsibility to lead the way in revising key guidelines in the insurance scheme.NIS Chairman, Dr Surendra PersaudIn a recent interview with Guyana Times, NIS Chairman, Dr Surendra Persaud acknowledged the need for a revamp of NIS’ investment portfolio. He explained that his Board, which includes big names in the Private Sector and the unions, has been looking into the matter.“The Board has been continuously looking at how the investment portfolio is handled,” Persaud explained. “There exists a document called the prudential framework, which is a guideline on how the NIS fund is to be invested. When we met at the NIS, the current investment was not consistent with that framework.”“So step one was to try to bring it in line. Step two is to then look at new and novel ways and the Board has been looking at all of this. We (were) waiting on the actuarial report to offer some recommendations and other suggestions. There is a need to revise it and it’s a continuous project. But no firm decisions have been made. The first step is to realign the fund with the prudential framework.”Persaud explained to this publication that the framework speaks to what percentage of NIS funds can be placed in a single investment, domestic or foreign. He related that this also speaks to what percentage can be used for short, medium and long-term investing.“That document is quite old and that document will likely have to be revised. That is going to be a significant multistakeholder effort. That is something the Ministry of Finance will possibly have to take on as opposed to the NIS. It requires a skillset in finance.”“That’s an investment decision. The Ministry of Finance is the responsible Ministry over the National Insurance Scheme. So anytime you change that, they would have to approve the process.”InvestmentsThe NIS has a number of investments. But speaking at the insurance scheme’s 49th anniversary, General Manager Holly Greaves, had informed the gathering that the scheme is grappling with low returns on its investments.“The scheme continues to be faced with low interest rates and no interest from some of its non-performing investments. Nevertheless, investment income will be boosted from a Government guaranteed investment in NICIL earning interest of 4.5 per cent over the next five years (GuySuCo) bond. In addition to this, we have so far received $774 million in interest and capital from the Government Debenture which was set up to repay the CLICO investment.”This is coupled with decreased payments from contributors. NIS Finance Controller Jacqueline Scotland, who, along with other senior officers appeared before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services in August of this year, had revealed that NIS stood to lose $414 million in earnings this year owing to a combination of factors.Scotland disclosed that the Scheme’s current fund stood at $31.9 billion as at June 30, 2018. It was also noted that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is one of the largest defaulters, owing in excess of $1.5 billion to NIS.At the time, Greaves told the committee that the sugar company had paid off the debt, except for $250 million in accumulated interest on the outstanding amount. Greaves said the Scheme planned to take legal action against GuySuCo to recover the money and had served a demand notice.NIS has implemented a debt management section to pursue persons who owe the Scheme. But, even with this new system, there are fears about continued slippage of contributions, as against the payment of benefits. This year, NIS is expected to pay out $23.6 billion, with contributions projected to reach $23.2 billion.With the closure of the Skeldon, Rose Hall, Wales and East Demerara factories, which saw close to 5000 workers being fired, NIS is staring down the barrel of a significant loss of revenue from declining contributions and increased pay outs.