Indo-Caribbean Hindus at World Hindu Conference 2023 Thailand
Numerous Guyanese people abroad in the USA, Canada and other countries (what we call the Guyanese Diaspora) now have a good chance to get their National Insurance Scheme (NIS) benefits paid and questions answered. Recognizing that the NIS has been an ongoing failure, President Ali is the first President to take the bull by the horns and is jacking up the NIS, which I described as a poster child for governmental inefficiency and as “Humpty Dumpty.” The President has started an initiative to process 10,000 NIS pending applications by year end. This is a tall order. According to the President, there are 300+ Diasporan cases waiting for answers. The good news is that the Diaspora Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a call to “Guyanese living in the USA.” The release said, “Do you have an outstanding query with the National Insurance Scheme (NIS)? Email the Diaspora Unit at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your concerns/queries by: Tuesday, October 31, 2023. Please include your name, NIS number, and a phone number where you can be contacted.” All matters emailed to the Unit will be addressed at the upcoming outreach scheduled for New York in November 2023.” A specific notice will be issued soon for people living in Canada. One potential problem here is that some people who cannot find their NIS cards may need assistance from the NIS to get their number so they can go online and search for their contribution statements. Will the NIS provide the numbers?
While the President has referenced only 300+ cases in the Diaspora, there are several thousands of people who, once they have left Guyana, did not look back. They shook the dust off their feet and left. They thought they escaped from Alcatraz! Many forgot about their NIS contributions. Many never applied for benefits because it is difficult to make contact with the NIS in Guyana. The contact information for the NIS under “Contact Us” are all local phone numbers. How about if Government is to start using WhatsApp numbers so people abroad can call easily? There is no email listed for the NIS. You can rack up high phone bills calling the NIS by phone and they would not answer you. So people just gave up after NIS people would not respond to you. It is not a customer-friendly system. It is not that Diasporans don’t want to get their benefits from a mandatory system to which they paid into. So, what has happened to the billions collected over the years from people now in the Diaspora, who have not made any claims? Where is that money? My friend Suresh said the NIS is able to keep afloat because people who have left Guyana and are living in different countries overseas are not claiming their benefits because of the harassment and hassles involved in applying for benefits. So, the thousands of millions in the system not claimed by the Diasporans might be helping to keep the NIS afloat.
Now that President Ali is offering assistance to people abroad to expedite processing through the Diaspora Unit as the middleman, how many Diasporans will take advantage of this opportunity? My Cousin, now 88-years-old has been given the runaround for 28 years. They are missing one year’s contribution. At first, they said he never worked for Bermine. I am sure he must hold the record for being pushed around by the NIS. The President had asked the Minister of Finance to look into his case, but we have not heard back when he will get his benefits. We contacted the NIS Board, too, but concluded that is a useless outfit who simply parrots to you what the NIS people say to them. They don’t seem to be honest brokers, referees, or pro-working class. You get the impression their job is to assist the NIS bureaucracy to block you from getting your benefits, not help you. With the President’s initiative to close all the backlogs, I trust the NIS will put my cousin in the number one priority. They can’t wait for him to die. As Mr. Roshan Khan and M. Singh wrote, it seems as if there is a deliberate, calculated effort by the NIS to frustrate and bully you so you would give up, or they hope you will die. It does not appear as if they are happy to pay you your benefits from a scheme you put money into. Every signal they send you is non-customer friendly. They must think Diasporans do not need the money, so frustrate them and they will give up! (See “President Ali’s announcement of fixing National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and Passport backlogs most commendable,” KN; See Haji Roshan Khan’s “An Open Letter to President Ali: T he NIS is sadistically murdering Guyanese, please do something,” SN, Aug. 26, 2023. See M. Singh’s “ The NIS: a scheme of Darwinian proportions, meaning, that Ministers are failing ,” SN, Sep 04, 2023 ).
Nevertheless, now is the time for the Diasporans wanting their NIS benefits to take advantage of this opportunity provided by the President’s intervention, through the Diaspora Unit. Please spread the word.
Dr. Jerry Jailall