Statement By Hon. Eugene Hamilton, Minister Of Social Security, On The Occasion Of The 43rd Anniversary Of The St. Christopher And Nevis Social Security Board
Fellow citizens, and residents, as Minister of Social Security, I am honoured to greet you on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the St Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board, observed today Monday 1st February 2021.
It was Act No 13 of 1977, and all of its attendant and related Regulations, which provided the legal framework through which the policies and operations of the Board, give life to its mission, “to provide the best possible benefits to all eligible persons, guaranteed by sound financial management and efficient administration.
Since the 1st of February 1978, Social Security has remained true to its mission to serve all citizens and residents of our Federation, by providing its varied complement of benefits, as well as. through its far-reaching corporate social responsibility programs.
In 2020, Social Security played a vital role in sustaining the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis, during the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its rollout of the COVID-19 Relief initiative.
Over 8500 persons were provided with the COVID-19 fund grants, which served as stimulus payments in respect of the period, April to June 2020 in the first instance, and again in September 2020. This was a significant complement to the overall stimulus regime, orchestrated by our Team Unity government, as its initial early response, to the financial challenges facing so many of our people, when international and local commerce and industry, began to buckle, under the weight of the pandemic.
This support, (unmatched by any other institution), was instrumental in keeping our economy afloat and provided much-needed support to the insured populace.
To date, a total of $22 739 441.94 has been disbursed to registered insured employees and the self-employed.
This level of support is unprecedented, and I am advised, that it has been the only one of its kind across the region.
It underscores the importance of Social Security as a crucial social safety net and fundamental economic pillar of our society.
Indeed, it also bears out our mantra that Social Security touches lives ‘from the cradle to the grave.’
Despite the many challenges that we face as a country, as a region and globally, we are resolute nonetheless in our quest, to ensure that our Social Security Fund, which has been cited as being the strongest in the OECS, continues to stand firmly and reliably in the gap, as it assures guaranteed protection for our people, as well as being a source of economic resilience for our country, as a whole.
You should all be well aware, that our Social Security Fund holds a reserve of $1.6 billion dollars.
It remains a strong and resilient safety net for the thousands of workers who contribute to the fund weekly, and monthly, as the case may be, in preparation for timely responses to their various contingencies, and very importantly, for the assurance of a secure source of income in their retirement years.
As a mature fund now 43 years old and serving the entire nation through the provision of pecuniary payments for short term benefits such as sickness, maternity and funeral grant; the long-term branch comprising of age, invalidity and survivors pensions; and the employment injury branch; we are mindful that the time is now upon us, to effect those changes that will support the Fund’s long term viability.
There is a common-sense obligation upon us, to look at the best model of benefits and contributions, the best model of investment and the best model of administration; to implement reformed models of contributing to the fund base and of providing benefits.
Needless to say, this will entail continuing consultation with all stakeholders (as we have been doing over the past years)….with the various sectors among our people….with experts in the field, and of course with our hard-working practitioners.
The goal is to develop and implement the best model: ….one that will serve the people who benefit now and one that will serve those who will be relying on Social Security for future benefits.
As the year progresses, Social Security will ramp up its discussions on matters pertaining to reform.
The year 2021 is also the 25th anniversary of the introduction of Self-Employed Coverage. On July 1st, 1996, Social Security extended its coverage to the self-employed: a sector that continues to grow despite the economic downturn. I take this opportunity to commend you who are self-employed and implore you to not only register but to remain compliant at all times. Your failure to do so could result in hardships later on in life.
I commend also those self-employed persons who remained vigilant and diligent throughout the years, and who can now boast of a pension earned solely from self-employed contributions.
The example of your deserving qualification for pensions should serve as an inspiration and motivation for others to do likewise, and to put themselves in a position to proudly extend their hands for their own just rewards.
As we move towards the future, it is important to reflect on the past and to take account of a few key indicators of our progress.
Allow me to highlight the following:
- Number of Contributors in the first year of operation….12,119 —
- Number of Contributors in 2019……….. 30,437
- Contributions collected in the first year of operation .. $3.3 million
- Contributions collected in 2019………… $99.6 million
- The number of Pensioners has grown to 6,620 persons
- Benefits paid in the first year of operation was $174 000
- Benefits paid in 2019……. $101.4 million
- Between 1978 to 2019, Social Security has paid a combined total exceeding $1.0 Billion dollars in benefits.
The figures I have outlined magnify the scope of work of Social Security and represent support to the insured in times of need.
In short order, we will be publishing the 2018 and 2019 financial statements on the website of the Social Security Board.
This increased level of access and transparency will provide all with a first-hand look at the operations of Social Security over the past couple of years and into the future
As a socially responsible corporate citizen, Social Security continues to make its mark in Education, Housing, Healthcare and National Security.
This level of national investment has rewarded us bountifully and can be seen in the increased number of trained professionals, improvement in our housing stock, greater efficiencies in healthcare, and reduction in the level of crimes.
We are confident also, that this support has in fact trickled back into social security, as contributions from employers and the self-employed, and has added great value to our overall performance as an institution.
As we say goodbye to our 43rd year of operation
and embark upon our 44th, we applaud the work of the forefathers of Social Security, former Ministers, Boards, Directors, Staff and Contributors…and all presently serving in their various capacities…. all who have played and those who are continuing to play a role in securing Social Security.
In that regard, (by way of reflection) I make special mention of the late Messers Richard Llewellyn Caines (former Chairman of the Board)…..Douglas Washington Richardson (the last surviving member of the first Board of Directors in 1978) who transitioned to glory during the past year 2020. Their services are remembered along with the services of all others.
Throughout this anniversary observance, we welcome you to support the activities of the Board including
Sunday 31st January 2021, Antioch Baptist Church on St. Kitts (9.30 am)
Sunday 7th February 2021, Shiloh Baptist Church on Nevis, (9.00 am)
Monday 15th February 2021
Panel Discussion – The Road Ahead: Social Security Reform
Wednesday 24th February (live ZIZ TV and NTV 8 PM
These activities are meant to provide the opportunity to give God thanks for his continued mercies and to engage the public in our ongoing consultative dialogue. I entreat the general public to pay keen attention to social security matters not only in St Kitts Nevis but around the region and the world.
Indeed, we can learn much from the experiences of others even as we share our own with them.
I speak of such institutions and entities as:
- The International Social Security Association (ISSA);
- the International Labour Organization (ILO);
- The Inter-American Conference on Social Security;
- The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) ;
- The CARICOM Heads of Social Security Organisations; and
- The World Bank among others
We, should all be aware, that these institutions and partners are well-positioned, to lend valuable support to our efforts at making our Social Security more meaningful and purposefully.
This has great significance, especially at this constantly evolving period in our development, when we, are at the cusp of implementing other very important social safety nets for the protection and enhancement of the lives of our people.
As we step into what can be considered to be a new chapter in the annals of our institution, we look forward to 43 more years of yeomen service to the people of this great nation. I wish us all an enjoyable and productive observance…. and I pray God’s continued blessings on Social Security and upon us all.