Hard lessons

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Was it coincidence or providence that after we contacted Social Security for data for the editorial that was presented in last issue; that the said issue contained an article by John Duffy about the British pension system?Perhaps not.

The United Nations has declared that pensions are a basic human right, and an anti-poverty measure for vulnerable groups including the elderly.   If we accept that, then we have to call upon the British to review its policy of freezing payments to its pensioners who cannot or will no longer live in the cold; and demand equal treatment for all pensioners regardless of their place of abode.  We call on our Government – and certainly on our Minister of Social Security – to be upfront and forefront of these negotiations for and on behalf of our citizens. It is an injustice to the “returnees” to be frozen out of their earned pension rights unless they lie.

There is an irony in the British stance.  Even as Enoch Powell, MBE (who held political office between 1974 – 1987) was advocating forced repatriation of people, the country was ending the reciprocal arrangements (according to Duffy), yet this is the one thing that may have enticed people to leave.  There is a sad lesson here: it is easier to resort to deception where laws are unfair, inequitable and discriminatory rather than to advocate for change.

We checked and were reassured that our Social Security Board has not adopted an anti-emigrant stance, and has no intention of doing so.  Instead, what we were advised is that the fund, being 39 years old, is facing challenges of sustainability because our benefits payments is increasing at a rate faster than our collections is increasing.  This is so mainly because of an aging population, because old persons are living longer and because there are fewer contributors per pensioner.

By law, the pension aspect of Social Security will not die. It cannot, not with a government guarantee to take over payment of pensions if ever the system fails.   But government is already struggling with its pension system to its retirees, so how can it take on more?

Our source offered a solution to the ‘problem’.  Reform!  Every country whose Fund is as old or older than ours has already done so. Barbados did.  So did Antigua & Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica and St Lucia.

Our source warned that if we do not reform, expect increased taxation.   Others have chosen reform.  Maybe we should too.

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