ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – 4th December, 2020……Pensioners in Antigua and Barbuda whose payments for the month of November have been delayed, will begin receiving payments from today Friday.
That’s the word from Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne who attempted to relay this message to a group of opposition United Progressive Party organized protestors including a few pensioners who gathered outside of the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday morning.
Speaking to a few of the partisan political protestors, while some of the UPP opposition supporters were rowdy, sometimes shouting profanities, Prime Minister Browne placed the late payments into context. He noted that the Social Security Scheme which handles payments to pensioners was insolvent, generating a lower income than its expenditure for decades. He said successive governments, dating back over thirty plus years were not consistent in paying premiums into the scheme. This he said resulted in over half a billion dollars in premiums not being paid into the scheme, preventing it from making investments that would have provided it with sustainable income for the future. The Prime Minister also outlined that contributions to the scheme is the only income the institution receives and therefore it cannot meet all of its obligations on a monthly basis.
The country’s leader was quick to point out that unlike previous government, his Antigua Labour Party government has never borrowed from the scheme and has consistently paid its monthly premiums. “Due to the reduced work week, unemployment and law-offs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the contributions into the scheme have been significantly impacted, with government having to supplement the scheme with over two million dollars on a monthly basis, in addition to its three million dollar monthly contribution, in order for pensioners to be paid. He noted that last week the treasury of Antigua and Barbuda paid the Social Security Scheme an additional three million dollars to ensure that payments are made to pensioners.
“The Gaston Browne administration has consistently demonstrated that it values the contributions made by pensioners to the development of Antigua and Barbuda and has therefore ensured that its contributions to the scheme are paid on time, to include during the past eight months of the economic downtown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, the Social Security Scheme announced that late payments can be collected from its offices in St. John’s and that December pensions will be paid before the end of December.
Upon the Prime Minister’s departure, the picketers quickly dispersed, which was followed by a press statement from the Opposition United Progressive Party outlining that it was in solidarity with the picket which it organized.
The Pensioners Association, which is the bargaining agent for pensioners later stated that it played no part in the organizing of the picket.