Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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NIS
(Aired 30 May 2009)

   The workforce of a country is usually about 30-45% of the total population; in Barbados for example the population is 285 thousand and the workforce is 129 thousand i.e. 45%. In Trinidad population is 1.23 million and the workforce is estimated at 621 thousand 50%. In Jamaica it is 44%. That's about what it is supposed to be in Guyana our population is around 772 thousand and our workforce is supposed to be 418 thousand; Guyana has the highest rate of unemployment in the Caribbean, but unemployment is not the purpose for my comment tonight my comment tonight concerns the fact that by the National Insurance and Social Security Act Chapter 36:01; and additions setting up the National Insurance Scheme in this country it became illegal to run a business and employ people without registering all employees and pay their NIS directly to the NIS. Of course under our laws the employer must also make a contribution to the NIS on behalf of each employee. And the employers must also deduct Income Taxes from the employee.

 

   The NIS annual reports 2003-2007 were recently presented to our parliament and they give some startling revelations about our workforce.

 

  The Factbook of the world complied by the CIA in America on each country [to get it on the web just enter "CIA factbook" in your search engine and you will find it] I use it a lot since even though it is composed by the US it is generally accurate and unbiased enough to guide any serious researcher who wants to get an idea about any country, how big it is, how it is governed i.e. the system of Government, what the economy of the country is based on, what is the GDP, how it is doing, what is the average earnings per person in US dollars a year, what the average life expectancy is, how many people are infected with HIV etc. it is the only website on the internet where one can get reasonably accurate data on any country in the world; for example in Egypt [just a random pick by me] the labour force is 24.72 million (2008 est.) out of a total population of 83 million i.e. 30% of the population, the factbook tells us that their intelligence had determined from data published by Egypt itself and other sources that the work force is broken down in the following manner - by occupation; agriculture: 32%; industry: 17%; services: 51% (2001 est.) of the over 190 countries listed in the factbook only 8 have an "information not available" [N/A] label on the distribution of their employees according to the areas of the economy in which they work, these 8 countries are Guyana, Aruba, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Botswana, Congo and Djibouti. Ladies and gentlemen I went through all the nearly 200 countries listed and these are the only ones that I have found which has this information of which areas the population works listed as "Not Available".

 

   In this country, the sitting ducks for NIS and indeed Taxes are the workers in the public service, the police force, the army, the nurses in the various hospitals, the teachers not only those who are teaching in public schools but those who are teaching at the private schools, and all of the workers in the civil service. I have asked for help from the trade unions, etc to determine how many total workers we have in these areas and the gestimates I have obtained run between 85-140 thousand persons in these sectors alone.

 

  The last thing I want to do is to start a debate or a controversy in this analysis tonight but incredibly in this country even though we are required by law to register with NIS on behalf of our employees and deduct their income taxes; the 2007 annual report of our NIS only has a total of 118,232 active registrants! now remember that the total personnel of the service categories I have outlined above according to the gestimates I obtained are between 85,000 to 140,000 workers employed in these service sectors, the situation was no different in 2006 the NIS report for that year was this same 118,232 employees; in 2004 it was 114,723; in 2003 it was 115,064 in other words only around 115-118 thousand people in this country are employed and are paying NIS [15.73%] and there were only 4,599 registered companies as employers i.e. companies or individuals which employ people who contribute to the NIS, now this includes all of the categories of employers in the areas I have outlined above, so in this country there are only 4,599 total employers and they employ a total of 118,232 people! All the thousands of shops you see everywhere around you, the countless stores that are springing up around you daily, the landowners and land tillers with rice, ground provisions, vegetables, cattle, sheep, fishing boats and other livestock total in this country in 2007 according to the NIS was only 4,599!!!

 

   There is a third category labelled the "self employed" category i.e. the traders, the side of the road vendors of all kind, mechanics and electrical servicemen who work for themselves and charge you $4000 to do an hour's work in your house, plumbers who also charge $4000 to do an hour's work in your house or office, carpenters who charge $6,000 a day, the people who walk around with weed wackers weeding your parapets and your yards, if any of these people employs even one person they becomes an employer under our laws, this category of NIS contributor occupy such a small amount of our NIS contributors that I will leave it out of my analysis for now, I will however say this, if one of these self employed people even the small fishermen, employs only one assistant they have to register themselves as employers but this category is ridiculously small and in the year 2007 only 373 new persons were registered as contributing to NIS as self employed. Ladies and gentlemen you decide if over the past 5 years 2003 to 2007 whether a total of only 1550 new self employed persons registered with NIS in this country is acceptable. I am unable to find anywhere in the NIS where the total registrants of this category are identified. I think that the NIS annual reports should reflect the total amount of people who are registered as self employed.

 

  But and I want you to listen to this ladies and gentlemen the total number of employed persons who are registered with the scheme is 602,838 but of this only 118 thousand are active and paying, there are no further explanations as to whether these 600 thousand people are the total registrants since the scheme started but as I go on the situation will, I hope, become clearer, on the other hand the total number of employers [these are the people who own businesses and employ people] totalled 25,414 but only 4,599 are active, in 2003 just to make the argument there were a total of 571,681 employees registered with the NIS but only 115,064 were active so this is a situation which has been going on for years. No apparent efforts are being made to discover who these registered and not paying people are, and what they are doing now, if they are dead then they should be struck off the register, if they have retired then they should be struck off the register and if they have migrated they should be struck off the register. This is a really ridiculous and lazy way to report on a matter where so many people are flying below the tax radar in this country putting hardships on those who do pay.

 

   The situation becomes even more strange as one delves deeper into the NIS reports; this is an agricultural nation, we all agree on that, but contrary to all logic the NIS breakdown of new registrants between 2003-2007 tells us that we employ around 6-10 thousand new employees every year in this country, In 2007 we employed 10,137 new people and here is a break down as to where they were employed 2,530 or 34 % entered the services sector, 2,672 or 26% entered the manufacturing sector, 1,853 or 18% entered the Commerce sector, and only new 583 persons or 6% entered the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector!   

 

  This trend has been going on for years for example in the 2003 report of the NIS we had, according to the annual report for that year 8,418 new registrants and they were deployed as follows 3,176 or approximately 38% were employed in the services sector; 1,930 or 23% entered the manufacturing sector; 1,554 or 18% entered the commerce sector; but the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector only attracted 580 new persons or 7%!

 

Ladies and gentlemen in the annual reports currently presented to our parliament from 2003 to 2007 only a total of 2,252 people entered employment in the agricultural, forestry and fishing sectors out of a total of 38,049 People employed in those 5 years i.e. a total of 6%!!

 

   There is no explanation as to how including GuySuCo this figure could be this low. And why there has not been any investigation to determine how it is possible for the so many employers and employees in all sectors especially in the agricultural sector not  paying NIS or apparently taxes, that only those who are the sitting ducks for taxation in the ministries, the public service, the teachers, the nurses, the police, the army and such categories are the ones carrying the major burden of the NIS and Taxation in this country.

 

   Given that by and large these categories which are paying are the same ethnic group which according to the ethnic relations commission investigations feel that they are being marginalised and victimised are the ones that are fetching the rest of the nation with their taxes and their NIS contributions, what is unfair, takes on an entirely different and even more sinister aspect.