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NIF To Lend $3 Billion To Small Business Sector
KINGSTON (JIS) -- Money set aside under the National Insurance Fund (NIF) for onlending to the small business sector is to be increased to $3 billion, up from $1.5 billion. This was disclosed by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson, during her contribution to the 2017/18 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on April 26. She pointed out that the funds will be disbursed through the approved Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs). Mrs. Robinson informed that this increase has been made possible due to the Fund’s excellent performance over the 2016/17 financial year, which was one of the “fastest growth periods in the history of the NIF”. “The NIF continues to perform creditably. At the end of Financial Year 2016/17, the Fund was valued at approximately $95 billion, reflecting an increase of over 17 per cent ($14 billion) during the year, she said.
Mrs. Robinson noted that through a prudent diversification strategy, the NIF’s major investments are in the tourism, manufacturing, banking and finance as well as the real estate sectors.
“I am happy to report that the refurbishment of the Braco property is now complete, and the 232-room hotel located in the beautiful parish of Trelawny is now in full operation,” she informed.
The Minister noted, however, that an imbalance remains between the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions received and benefits paid.
“In the last financial year, we collected approximately $14 billion in contributions, but paid out over $15 billion in benefits,” she said.
In the meantime, Mrs. Robinson informed that an awareness and perception survey of the NIS will be conducted during this financial year.
“The information will be used to guide how we promote and market the NIS among our citizenry,” she said, lamenting that less than half of the employed labour force contributes to the scheme, which has to be rectified.
In addition, the Minister informed that phase two of reforms to the NIS will get under way this year and will entail another actuarial study.
“This will be complemented by yet another reform initiative – that of evaluating the governance structure, investment policies and asset allocation of the NIF,” she said.