Honourable Premier's Social Security Week 2020 Radio Address
It is with a great sense of honour and humility that I address you today in my capacity as Minister responsible for Social Security, as the Social Security Board begins its celebration of Social Security Week 2020. This year is even more significant as a milestone year, as Social Security celebrates 40 years of the signing of the legislation that brought the Social Security System into being and highlights the visionary leadership of the Father of the Nation, the late Honorable James Ronald Webster.
I address you at a time when Social Security has become even more relevant as we struggle through this drought of employment brought on by the global pandemic Covid 19, which has left us with a fragile economy, and is threatening our healthcare system.
It is commendable that the Government of Anguilla was able to call upon the Social Security Board to step in for the people of Anguilla with the Unemployed and Underemployed Benefit Program. This has helped persons who qualified through having paid into the Social Security System. We cannot forget the role that Social Security played in 2017 after the passage of Hurricane Irma with the Temporary Unemployment Assistance Program, which affected mainly those workers in the Tourism Sector. Even before that, following the Financial Crisis and economic downturn of 2009, the Social Security Board implemented a Food Voucher program in 2010.
The Honourable James Ronald Webster had a vision of a social safety net for Anguillian workers and launched the Social Security System on January 1st, 1982. Social Security was introduced at a time when the Tourism Industry was expanding and a number of people (particularly women) previously unemployed and depending on remittances from abroad, were going out to work. Mr. Webster, having been exposed to social protection systems overseas, understood the need for labour protection and a nest egg for the Golden Years. 40 years after the passage of the legislation, we are today witnessing the fruits of what was a seed sown in his mind, planted by him, and nurtured by all those persons who would have been called upon to serve in this auspicious institution which indeed provides a sense of security for the people of Anguilla.
Social Security Week marks the 40th anniversary of the November 3rd 1980 passage of the Social Security Act. At a time when millions of dollars have been paid-out for the Unemployment/ Underemployment Benefit, high unemployment and a severe shrinkage in contributions, persons may begin to wonder if the Fund will be around when they retire. With sound financial management and prudent planning, the Fund has been able to build reserves for this rainy day. I must caution you though that when things return to normal and employment again flourishes, remember to put something away for that proverbial rainy day because the Fund cannot sustain too many of these shocks if persons do not contribute.
With a fund in excess of $350,000,000.00, we can say that the Fund is secure. However, for the preservation of the Fund there are necessary actions that must be taken with actuarial advice to ensure the resilience and relevance of the Social Security System. Social Security is a basic Human Right recognized by the United Nations, and Social Security Systems worldwide have as their mandate, to provide relevant and reliable benefits which will provide a minimum standard of financial security to guard against poverty.
The latest triennial Actuarial Review as at 31 December, 2019, proposes recommendations for changes to the legislation including the establishment of an Unemployment Benefit Branch. Unemployment Benefit is essential to protect our workers and their families. In addressing the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis, Juan Somavia, the ILO Director-General said "The current crisis has highlighted the importance of having a minimum set of social security benefits for all in place."
The ILO report "World Social Security Report 2010-2011: Providing coverage in times of crisis and beyond, " states that "Social Security plays an important role in times of economic crisis, as an 'irreplaceable economic, social and political stabilizer' that provides income replacement and helps stabilize aggregate demand, without negatively effecting economic growth…"well-designed unemployment schemes, social assistance and public works programmes effectively prevent long-term unemployment and help shorten recovery from economic recession." (ILO, 2010).
New initiatives must be pursued to enhance the lives of the contributors. Evidence that NCDs are on the rise, plus the new wave of viruses and global Pandemics, call for the introduction of a sustainable National Health Insurance System. The Social Security Board joined with PAHO to fund a project to review the National Health Fund Legislation which was done in conjunction with Social Security Legislation. Like the Social Security legislation, this legislation now needs to be enacted. However, it has to be done in a smart way, as providing a proper health service is expensive and without the proper human resources and right infrastructure, the NHI will not be sustainable.
The original Social Security legislation addresses the collection of contributions to guard against the contingencies of sickness, maternity, old age, disability, survivors benefits and funeral grants. Social Security legislation has to be dynamic to adapt to changing times, including for Self-employed workers, and Non-Contributory pensions to allow those early workers who did not have the opportunity to pay into the Social Security System, and to provide for a Paternity Benefit. Legislation was also passed early in the System's operations to provide for the Social Security Development Fund which allows for the funding of socially desirable projects with a focus on Education, Health, and Sports programs. And in the more recent past, legislation was passed for the establishment of an investment vehicle Anguilla Social Security Investment Development Corporation (ASSIDCO) as a subsidiary of the Social Security Board to allow the Board to invest in social development infrastructure, housing, and other Economically Targeted Investments (ETIs) that yield acceptable returns on investments.
After 40 years of the passage of the Social Security legislation and a number of legislative changes over the years, it is indeed timely that the Social Security Board is presently undertaking a comprehensive review of the Act and Regulations to update the legislation and produce a compendium of the various social security legislative changes over the years.
Social Security is a shared responsibility. It behooves all Anguillians and workers in Anguilla to be compliance officers to ensure that their contributions are paid and consequently social security coverage is extended to all. We often times think that we can provide for ourselves, but as is evident with Covid 19 and other shocks previously mentioned, we cannot predict the future, and therefore to guard against the uncertainties of life, social protection such as is provided by Social Security is an absolute necessity.
At this time, I wish to recognize and thank the past Ministers responsible for Social Security, the Social Security Board, Director, Management and staff and those that have served before them for their contribution to making the Social Security System one of Anguilla's leading institutions where Accountability, Customer service, Teamwork, Integrity, Visionary leadership and Excellence, its core values (ACTIVE), are exemplified for the benefit of all of us.
It is with great honour therefore that I declare Social Security Week 2020, October 31 - November 7, 2020 officially open! Thank you.