RADIO ADDRESS FOR SOCIAL SECURITY WEEK 2018 BY DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL SECURITY MR. TIMOTHY A. HODGE
It is an honour and privilege to address you as Director of Social Security on the occasion of Social Security Week, 2018. It has been the tradition that in every year, the week in which November 3rd falls is celebrated as Social Security Week, November 3rd being the date in 1980 when the Social Security Act was passed in the House of Assembly under the leadership of the late Honourable James Ronald Webster, then Anguilla's Chief Minister.
This year therefore, the Social Security System celebrates the 38th Anniversary of the passage of the Act, under the theme "Social Security: Supporting a Culture of National Resilience". We began, as usual, with giving thanks to God for his manifold blessings to us in a worship service at the Life Impact Center, West End. Co-incidentally, the graduating class of the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School was also celebrating their milestone at the church, and their graduation song, which they performed so beautifully, also drew on the theme of resilience, proclaiming that their class was "so brave, so strong, brilliant and oh so resilient!" And that they truly are, having overcome many obstacles, not least of which was Hurricane Irma which destroyed most of their school but could not destroy their spirit and their determination to successfully complete their secondary education journey. The Social Security Staff sang "You are my strength", giving honour to God, the source of all strength and resilience, and the scriptures in 2nd Corinthians chapter 4, verses 7 - 18 echoed that theme. Permit me to quote some of those verses which bear out the theme of resilience, which you will agree, is very much a biblical theme, and worthy of emulation in our corporate and individual lives.
Verses 8 and 9: We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; and verses 16 - 18: For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Apostle McDonna in his message "Your Season is not Ended" also built on the theme of resilience, exhorting the young students, and those of us charged with responsibility for the Social Security System, to persevere, no matter what the circumstances, to brighter and better times ahead. Everyone who was there would agree that we were all truly blessed, and blessed again when he called us management and staff, together with the Minister for Social Security, the Hon Victor Banks, and Board Chairman Mr Sean Richard, for a collective blessing. You might wonder why I am choosing to dwell so heavily on these spiritual reflections. It is because I believe strongly in the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 127:1 "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
The words Social Security by themselves signify resilience. Social: the sharing of risks, the pooling of resources, and the combined efforts of our citizens comprise the social, the togetherness, on which our island nation has to be built, in the words of our National Song: strong, united and free. In fact our national motto, Strength and Endurance, also proclaim that we are a resilient people. We have been a resilient people over the centuries, and we will continue to be a resilient people by God's grace. Security - well it speaks for itself!
So our Social Security System, birthed 38 years ago, and which shortly will begin its 37th year of operations, is strong and sustainable, and in the words of the graduating song, oh so resilient! Resilient in its humble beginnings, when the naysayers far outnumbered those who believed. Resilient in the last decade of economic turmoil brought on by the global financial crisis. Resilient in the face of unrelenting baseless attacks by the devious and deviant, the ignorant, the bearers and believers of fake news, and the misled. Resilient in the face of Hurricane Irma which tried to destroy not just the economic stability on which our economy and thus our System is built, but our entire island and its people. Resilient through many trials, toils and snares, so that today the Social Security Fund has reserves in excess of $350 million, an amazing accomplishment of reserve per capita over 36 years even when compared with financial giants in our region. It is because we are resilient that we continue to support socially desirable projects from our Social Security Development Fund. And it was because we are resilient that we were able to respond almost immediately when Hurricane Irma wiped out our tourist season and the jobs of many hundreds of our workers we were able to design and implement a temporary Unemployment and Under-employment benefit plan. That plan paid out $1.7 million in benefits to sustain almost 2,000 workers and their families in the aftermath of Irma and up until May of this year.
But a strong and resilient Social Security System cannot simply rest on its laurels and cruise into the future. For the future is not for the faint-hearted. Tough economic times, rapid change, global events, technological advance - all these call on us to be future-focussed, to transform the way we do things, if we are to be competitive or even relevant on the world stage.
The Social Security System is cognizant of its heavy responsibility to be not just a reliable provider of social security benefits, but also, as the largest fund of national savings, a true catalyst for, and partner in, national development. In this regard, the Social Security system is partnering with government in several initiatives to diversify the island's economy and promote job growth. This is actually in the System's self-interest as well, because a strong economy and job growth will strengthen its contribution base and thus increase its financial resilience as well.
Notwithstanding this, I stress that the contributors and beneficiaries remain our primary responsibility, and in this regard I am pleased to state that a number of benefit increases have been approved. Shortly Anguilla will become the first Commonwealth Caribbean country to pay Paternity Benefits under its Social Security System. We will shortly also be rolling out our new Strategic Plan: Transformational Social Security, which will guide our operations over the next five years.
As our week of activities continues, we thank you for your support of us as we continue to support a Culture of National Resilience and celebrate Social Security Week. Among the activities, our Lecture will continue the theme of resilience in the face of climate change, and we honour our beloved elders with a luncheon. And of course, we will have our usual health walk.
Thank you, and have a great Social Security Week!