Labour Minister Errol McLeod said yesterday that proposed changes to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) were not about to "punish or penalise people" but rather provide benefits to self-employed people.
McLeod was responding to comments raised by Opposition MP Colm Imbert, during yesterday's sitting of the House of Representatives, Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain during the debate of the Finance Bill 2013.
The Minister said NIS was not only about pension but a "host of other benefits", including medical care, health, survivor's benefits and injury benefits.
He pointed out that many people who have engaged in private business have been outside NIS and have not been provided for and "we are now attempting to bring them in".
He pointed out at age 65 those in the informal sector would immediately enlist for old age pension and depend on the State to take care of them, and in some cases also their wives and children.
"So we are trying to put an end to that and bring as many of our people as possible, if not all, in one fell swoop, under protection of this thing," he said.
McLeod noted that unless NIS was opened up to everyone "we will continue to have an old age pension bill that is as high as all our pension plans put together".
He said this new measure has been avoided since NIS came into existence around 1972.
McLeod also said the registration of self-employed people was not only to ensure necessary contributions are made and secured for use at retirement or for health reasons, but it will allow the Labour Ministry to better plan its programmes.
He said NIS will continue to be a work in progress and as time passes there will be amendments to improve some if not all of the areas.
McLeod also commented that the protection offered to people in this country was among those in the world "that is held up for high acclaim".