Fellow citizens, nationals, and residents, as Minister of Social Security, I greet you on the 44th anniversary of the St Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board, observed today on Tuesday, 1st February 2022.
In 1977, parliament, by Act No 13, established the legal framework that details the policies and operations of the Social Security Board. This regulatory order prescribes that all eligible persons are guaranteed the various short and long-term benefits offered by Social Security. Today, Social Security offers twenty-six (26) benefits, each with its qualifying conditions and rates of payments. By 1996, Social Security was in full alignment with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with the inclusion of universal coverage for the Self Employed. This accomplishment ensured that the person who wished to create their own employment could be fully covered and gain access to the benefits of the fund just as full-time employees had.
Over the last 44 years, Social Security has solidified itself as the premiere pillar of our society, providing pecuniary benefits to the insured in situations such as sickness, maternity, employment injury and in old age, amongst others. All insured persons can rely with confidence on the ability of the Social Security Fund to pay benefits. This could not be achieved without the appropriate measures for sound financial management and administration.
Apart from the fund’s primary objective to pay benefits, Social Security has demonstrated time and time again its thrust to ensure the sustainability of the economy through its various corporate social responsibility programmes. Annual donations to health and national security, capital investment in local development projects, support to youth programmes and NGO’s, all add value to the core function of social security.
A major show of solidarity in 2020 was the initiation and rollout of the COVID-19 ReliefFund, where over 8500 persons were provided with the COVID-19 grants to the tune of over $23 million. In 2021, Social Security again stepped up to support families whose income was once more interrupted by the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, in St. Kitts and Nevis. Social Security in collaboration with Rams Supermarkets and Valu Mart provided financial support of $275,000.00 in food vouchers through the Food Vouchers Initiative of the Ministry of Social Services and NEMA.
This level of support is outside the usual scope of Social Security benefits, but it underscores the importance of Social Security, not only in normal times but also in times of crisis.
Despite the growing challenges of a maturing fund and the intricacies of changing demographics, Social Security continues to grow and maintain the fund as a strong and resilient safety net for all who depend on the fund to meet its obligations.
As responsible administrators of the fund, it is equally important to improve upon the current financial infrastructure; implement transformational reforms aimed at increasing the longevity of the Fund, and continue to be a reliable corporate partner through the next 44 years and beyond.
As we enter the 45th year, it is important to reflect on the past and move ahead with renewed vigour to advance the products and services provided by Social Security to the ordinary man. In 2021, the following figures serve as key indicators of some of the work done:
– 659 New Age Pensioners were guaranteed monthly benefits
– 88 New Invalidity Claimants are guaranteed monthly support
·-145 New Survivors Pensioners have been approved for monthly benefits including spouses, dependent parents, and children
– Total benefit expenditure for 2021 amounts to $120,816,494.68 (unaudited)
Not only do these figures magnify the level of support to the insured in times of need, it also underscores the equal importance for both employers and the self-employed to remain compliant and meet their obligations to the fund. It requires all hands on deck, dutifully committing to the long-term goal of financial soundness and sustainability. Any other approach would be counterproductive.
I take this opportunity to commend, every single person whose work is testament of what the Social Security fund is today. I applaud the work of the founding fathers, former Boards and Directors, Staff and Contributors for their collective effort and support of Social Security
As Minister with responsibility for Social Security, I encourage all stakeholders to pay keen attention to your social security matters and to ascribe to your rights and obligations as insured persons.
I pray God’s continued blessings on the fund, the administrators, the Economy, and our government and all of our people so that the mission to provide the best possible benefits is achieved for generations to come. Happy 44th anniversary.