Regional delegates consider future of social security in ECCU
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The future of social security systems within the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) was explored this week during a two-day meeting convened at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in St. Kitts.
Delegates participating in the March 8-9 Social Security Investment Forum were given an overview of the challenges faced by social security boards and considered ways to mitigate risk, ensure the safety of the funds and grow the investment portfolios.
Senior Minister and Minister responsible for Social Security the Honourable Vance Amory addressed the regional delegates at a brief opening ceremony and underscored the value of the forum given that statistics reveal that more than 90 percent of elderly people in the ECCU rely on social security as the main or only source of income.
“Facilitating such discussions – like the Social Security Investment Forum – is more pertinent today than ever before,” he said. “That’s because although our sub-region faces challenges such as extreme vulnerability to hurricanes. Its eight members are presented today with an ever-expanding à la carte menu of investment opportunities. It is for our social security boards and systems to make wise investments and to help with the growth of the economies in our countries.”
Housing has been one area that the St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board has invested in during the years. The most recent housing investment was made in 2017 to the tune of $50 million in support of government’s Unity Housing Solution Programme implemented by the National Housing Corporation in St. Kitts. A similar investment totalling $10 million was also made with the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation. The board also invested $7 million in support of the construction of a second cruise pier at Port Zante.
Senior Minister Amory also highlighted the economic growth in the twin-island federation during the past three years and noted that it has had a positive impact, leading to the expansion of Social Security. These include registering the highest annual wage bill, the largest number of contributors, the largest number of employed and the largest number of jobs. The Inland Revenue Department issued a “a historic high” of more than 400 business licenses in the same three-year period and the number of people skilled in technical and vocational fields has been increased following the structural and organizational upgrades to the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP).
“On behalf of the government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis, I applaud the local Social Security Board for taking on a very active and sensitive role in nation building, which also entails investment in the form of scholarships,” Amory stated, noting the Susanna Lee High School Scholarship, the Robert Manning M.B.E University Financial Assistance Award and the Stanley Amory Technical Scholarship. “Its proactive stance in precipitating continued economic growth works to everyone’s advantage – a surge in the pool of educated workers and in contributions from employees and employers ensure Social Security’s stability, universality and viability.”
Amory expressed confidence in the success of the forum and reminded the delegates that “successes rest not on size or location, but instead on our people’s ability to rise to the occasion and grasp at every avenue for upliftment.”