As the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) celebrates its 50th anniversary, the agency is now moving to upgrade its pension payment system and is appealing to pensioners to submit their bank account numbers so that their monthly payments can be made through the banking system.This was related to Guyana Times on Saturday by the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of NIS, Dianne Lewis-Baxter, who was at the Giftland Mall, attending the entity’s public day.“What we’ve been pushing also is for pensioners to have their monies sent to their bank accounts which is a little easier because of the crowds,” she said.In this regard, the PRO explained that the NIS has already been forced to buy tents and additional chairs for some locations as pensioners generally crowd the locations, on a specific date to receive their monies.According to her, the new pensioners are being encouraged to submit their bank account numbers so that their monies can be paid through that system. Asked how the response to this initiative has been, the official informed that the younger persons are already au fait with this system, as most are paid through banks, so no complaints have been recorded so far.She, however, added that “The trouble is with the older folks who are on string for about 20 years now and here it is that NIS is now saying to get a book or send their money to the bank. Some of them are saying ‘we don’t have a bank account’ and so in that case we need to allow it to remain as it is,” she said.Since some pensioners are comfortable with the old system, persons will be given a choice to receive their monies through a bank, or at post offices.Public dayMeanwhile, scores of persons seized the opportunity of the public day to have free blood sugar and pressure testing, by the trained medical team. Free advice on healthy sleeping and eating habits was also shared.Other persons were able to check on statuses of claims that were made, while others even had their lost NIS card replaced.Although the NIS will observe its 50th anniversary in September, the agency has begun celebrating its golden jubilee. The celebrations kicked off on Thursday last with a prayer service which will be trailed by several others leading up to September.Financial statusSince the dismissal of thousands of sugar workers and the firing of about 2000 Amerindian Community Support Officers (CSOs), financial analysts have outlined worry about the financial status of NIS.Last week, Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram in an interview with this publication on Guyana’s unemployment rate said that this may impact payments to NIS and income tax. According to the accountant, many persons do not see their National Insurance Scheme (NIS) deductions in the positive light of being a contribution to their future pension, but rather, they see it as a deduction from an already small salary.Tax collection is not the only thing taking a hit when there is large-scale unemployment, as NIS contributions are also affected. For instance, concern has been expressed that layoffs in the sugar belt could undermine the Scheme’s position.This is particularly so if the Scheme were to pay unemployment benefits. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had said that the idea of paying out these benefits did not take into account the current financial status of the Scheme and its ability to meet its current obligations.He noted that the last actuarial report recommended that focus be placed on building the reserve to avoid a deficit. In fact, it was disclosed in that report that the life of the Scheme should come to an end by 2022 unless strategic plans for revenue earnings and expansion of the investment portfolio were effectively implemented. Jagdeo also referenced the thousands of dismissed sugar workers.“What has happened since is that this Government has fired 7000 sugar workers, many others. Let’s say maybe 20,000 more have lost their jobs. Take of the 20,000, just take another 8000 who were paying NIS, so those are people who are not contributing to NIS,” he explained.This translates to decreased inflows for NIS and payouts that would remain constant or increase. In the last financial statement issued by the Scheme, it had showed a deficit of over $800 million.