Basseterre, St. Kitts, July 21, 2016 (SKNIS): The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, has pledged to protect and reform social security in order to ensure its sustainability for future generations.
“I can advise that the Team Unity administration is sensitive to ensure that the fiscal viability of the Social Security Scheme must never be put in jeopardy,” the Prime Minister said, while giving an address at the opening of a new three storey building in Pinney’s, Nevis on Wednesday (July 20). “Securing the future of St. Kitts and Nevis is dear to the heart of Team Unity, and Social Security must be put at the fulcrum of policy initiatives for preserving the future of our people,” he added.
Prime Minister Harris noted that the Premier of Nevis and Senior Minister and Minister of Social Security in the Federal Government, Honourable Vance Amory, will present reform measures to Cabinet for consideration. Prime Minister Harris referenced some trends in regional and international circles in instituting reforms.
One such trend raises the question whether the Social Security pensionable age should be increased from 62 years to 65 years. Given the reality that more and more persons in St. Kitts and Nevis and around the world are living longer, Dr. Harris said this requires serious consideration. However, those “anxiously awaiting” age 62 will not be ignored, he said.
“The actuarial advice has seen fit to propose that one can move in increment towards the age of 65, ensuring that those who would wish to claim at 62 can so claim even at reduced levels, while the full pensionable benefits become applicable at age 65,” the Prime Minister said, emphasizing that “there is wisdom in that suggestion.”
“Of course, in all that we are going to do, we will do it in consultation with the people of St. Kitts and Nevis,” Dr. Harris stated.
Dr. Harris, who is also the Minister of Finance, noted that Social Security has been there for registered persons “in times of illness, injury, maternity, in times when one would have run the fullness of one’s work life and become eligible for pensionable benefits, and Social Security again must stand with our people at the time of death, with funeral and other benefits being paid out.”
According to statistics provided by Social Security, there are over 3,000 pensioners in the contributory pool. These persons over the age of 62 years receive over six million dollars per year. Support is also provided to persons in various categories, including the differently-abled, widows and the infirm. With so many people in our society dependent on Social Security, Prime Minister Harris said this makes reform even more necessary.
Dr. Harris added that Social Security “must always be in service to the people,” and he commended the staff to continue to meet the needs of the citizenry.