OECS, ECCB look at harmonisation of Social Security/National Insurance Schemes

Robert L. Bradshaw Social Security Building

ST. KITTS, APRIL 13, 2010 (CUOPM) – Harmonisation of National Insurance or Social Security Schemes is essential as the region moves closer towards an OECS Economic Union.

Head of the OECS Social Policy Unit, Mr. Darrel Montrope says there is tremendous value in strengthening various social protection policies and programmes among OECS Member States.

“It is in times of crises we really see the benefits of social protection systems. We need to strengthen our systems and put things in place even before another crisis hits,” he said.

Mr. Montrope said that one way of strengthening these programmes is through the harmonisation of policies.

“The whole regionalisation or that common approach is an imperative. We have to implement a harmonised regional social security programme because implicit in the formation of the Union is the free movement of people and labour. People would be concerned that if they have worked in an OECS Member State and were to migrate to another what would happen to their benefits accrued in the previous Member State? The idea is to ensure that they are able to carry along their benefits with them. They are protected. I think people would hate to feel that they have worked in a Member State for 14 years or whatever duration and should they decide to migrate, they can’t get certain services or they would have lost their previous benefits. Hence the need to harmonise the Social Security Programmes. You need to make it common. This is the reason for it being imperative,” according to Montrope.

In this regard the OECS Secretariat’s Social Policy Unit, in collaboration with the St. Kitts-based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank conducted a one-day meeting with Directors of National Insurance/Social Security Boards of the Member States on Friday 9th April.

Montrope expressed confidence that a harmonised or OECS Social Security Programme is in the best interest of OECS Nationals within the context of an OECS Economic Union.

“Some of the regional Social Security Systems will face their own challenges; for example with life expectancy increasing, will these agencies be able to provide for persons in sufficient quantities in their golden years? What additional options do they gain by pooling their resources? Another issue relates to the differences in retirement age between the public and the private sector, and even between Member States. Should we not have a common retirement age? These persons are all contributing to National Insurance or Social Security Systems. So these issues need to be rationalized or at least ironed out if the OECS Economic Union is to serve the needs of the people,” he said.

The meeting with the Directors of Social Security in the OECS explored issues associated with coverage for persons working in the informal sector, the sustainability and expansion of current financial arrangements, as well as the steps necessary to ensure a common arrangement throughout Member States.

“For example there are certain informal sector workers who do not contribute to national security systems in some Member States. How do we provide coverage for those persons? There will be need for an integration of approaches. We will be looking at possible ways of sustaining and expanding the financing ability of the Social Security programmes, such as the areas of investment available to these Social Security Systems,” Montrope stated.

Collections from Social Security Schemes in the OECS embrace major social policy areas, thus making the schemes responsible for providing significant protection to vulnerable persons in the region.

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