Honourable Premier's Social Security Week 2023 Radio Address
Good day, fellow Anguillians and residents of Anguilla. It is my pleasure to address you as Premier and Minister of Finance responsible for Social Security, on the occasion of Social Security Week 2023, October 29, to November 4, 2023, under the theme 'Embracing Digital Solutions for Inclusive Social Security'. Friday, November 3rd, 2023, marks 43 years since the passage of the Social Security Act.
Each year, Social Security Week is celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of the passage into law of the Social Security Act on November 3rd, 1980. The Social Security System, which has its foundation in the Act, was introduced to Anguilla by the late Honourable Father of the Nation, Mr. James Ronald Webster. We pause at this time to acknowledge the contribution of Mr Webster, the then Government of Anguilla, and all those who supported him in its introduction. We also remember Pastor Davis Lloyd, one of the members of the 1st Social Security Board, who was laid to rest on Sunday.
The Social Security System exists to provide universal coverage and protection for workers and their families when wages are disrupted by certain contingencies, such as sickness, maternity, paternity, disability, old age, and death. Its Vision is to assist in the transformation of Anguilla into a smart, resilient, diversified, healthy, green, and inclusive country with universal social security coverage and full employment enabled by a customer-centric and technology-driven Social Security System.
Even as the island continues to experience economic shocks, which have negatively impacted Social Security operations, the Fund remains resilient, providing relief and economic security for the people of Anguilla. Beginning with the Global Financial crisis in 2008, Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, current global events such as the wars in Eastern Europe and Israel, high inflation and rising interest rates which negatively impact the stock market where the Social Security Board has investments, the Fund has withstood several shocks. Just last week we were reminded of our fragility following the passage of Hurricane Tammy, which left the island out of electricity from the effect of thunderstorms and lightning on ANGLEC's power plant and equipment.
Thankfully, the island is seeing a return to pre-Covid levels of employment and growth in economic activity, which, with the impact of rebounding regional and international stock markets, have positively influenced the growth of the Social Security Fund. We are appreciative of the responsiveness of the Social Security Board after these shocks. Notwithstanding, we are at a juncture where a permanent Unemployment Benefit needs to be introduced to ensure that the Fund can adequately aid contributors in the event of a period of being unemployed or underemployed, and not just as a stop-gap measure as seen with Hurricane Irma and Covid-19 Temporary Unemployment Benefits.
To be more customer-focused and responsive to changing needs, the Social Security Board continues to strive to be the leader in innovation in Anguilla, transform its services to the people of Anguilla, and improve its efficiencies. The Board continues to implement the Multi-Benefit Solution, a new social insurance administration system designed by Bearing Point Caribbean. The Theme for the Week, "Embracing Digital Solutions for Inclusive Social Security", submitted by Ms Rosanna Browne, Public Relations & Statistics Officer, is indeed fitting at this time when the ASSB is at the project closure of implementation of Multi-Benefit Solution (MBS). The focus of the week will be to get as many members of the public registered and utilizing the system as well as create awareness of this comprehensive system that offers much-needed efficiencies and process automation, internally and externally, through various communication mediums.
The Multi-Benefit Solution provides users with many efficiencies, such as:
- A modern self-service customer portal that offers quick and easy completion of Social Security business.
- 24-hour availability, providing around-the-clock service to meet customer expectations.
- Filing or payment reminders via email, and in the online portal, it ensures avoidance of penalties.
- Electronic payment via bank transfer
- Making monthly contributions faster and easier with an online payment reference.
- A facility to enable claimants to file their Sickness and Maternity benefit claims online and also to check on the status of their claims.
- A facility for paying pensions and filing these claims.
- A Compliance sub-system - collections and audit
- Risk management, document management, and audit trails.
The Board continues with its comprehensive review of the legislation. It engaged the Actuarial services of Mr. Derek Osbourne to work with the Board to complete this project, which will bring relevancy to the Fund. The primary purpose of periodic actuarial reviews is to determine if the social security system operates on sound financial and actuarial bases and if it provides adequate and affordable levels of income protection. Where necessary, recommendations are made to ensure that these objectives can be achieved for current and future generations.
Given the 2020 Actuarial Report that the Social Security Fund reserves are projected to be depleted by 2035 to 2038, Executive Council considered and approved the Actuary's recommendation to increase the Contribution rate from 10% to 12% in increments of 0.25% for the Employer and 0.25% for the Employee each year for 4 years. This was following a series of public consultations and information sessions over the past year as well as providing the draft amendment to the Regulation for public comment. It is anticipated that this will commence on January 1, 2024.
As part of the Board's mandate to extend coverage and focus on the self-employed, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is assisting the Social Security Board in Anguilla as well as in Grenada to conduct a diagnostic on informal workers and economic units; a needs assessment of the informal economy to facilitate the extension of coverage to self-employed persons in that sector, and provide some means of social protection. This is part of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals SDG 1.3.1, to ensure that all older persons have access to social protection. The study will serve as a baseline in the expansion of the social security programmes to meet the needs of the informal economy workers, to understand their perceptions, preferences and challenges and to identify the gaps and opportunities for extending social protection coverage to the informal sector. Apart from the system achieving universal coverage, the contributions from the self-employed will help to contribute to the sustainability and solidarity of the Social Security System.
I am pleased to report that in its 43rd year of operations, the Social Security Fund Assets exceed $434 million. The Social Security Board will take the necessary measures to curtail administrative expenditure, review its organizational structure, and increase contribution collections in order that the Fund remains financially sustainable.
In closing, I pray that God will continue to bless the people of Anguilla and the Anguilla Social Security System as it continues to strive to fulfil its Mission to contribute to the transformation of the quality of life in Anguilla through meaningful social security, community empowerment and national impact initiatives, as we embrace digital solutions for inclusive social security.