By Carlena Knight
The government of Antigua and Barbuda is being scrutinised for its failure to alleviate the problem of late payment to pensioners.
Senator Damani Tabor, who was a guest yesterday morning on OBSERVER AM, shared his concerns about the matter and noted that the late payments to pensioners could result in adverse life effects.
“We have very serious concerns about the chronic late payment that is plaguing our pensioners. You work hard, serve your country, serve your place of employment with distinction and now you are to get what is yours and live out your golden years in dignity, but you are subjected to late payments which affect all aspects of your life.
“Depression comes into play, starvation, their health implications … I know of pensioners who can’t keep up with the diet that would really be best for their diabetic conditions. They have to resort to cheaper and unhealthier food options just so that they can have something to eat to keep down the gas. It’s a public health issue to ensure that you pay pensioners on time.”
Tabor then questioned why the government could not step in and help solve the problem.
“If they have been the beneficiaries of the CIP (Citizens by Investment Program), which has yielded a billion dollars, you know you get $200 million per year more revenue than the UPP did, then why are you not in a position to give Social Security some sort of overdraft? Set aside some money that is dedicated towards smoothing the payment so that if remittances are late, Social Security can pay the pensioners on time and then reconcile after.
“It is unconscionable that you have had a billion dollars of CIP, you are saying we are growing at six percent, you have a recovered global economy, you say it’s an economic powerhouse but you cannot implement something to [ensure] getting some funds.”
He believes that the non-action by the government proves that the economy is far from an economic powerhouse.
“The inability to pay pensioners is one of the surest signs that the economy is flat, it’s destroyed, it’s underperforming. The high amount of joblessness is another clear indicator on the books that the less workers you have, the less remittances would be paid.
“You would recall that in the 2015 Labor Force Survey it was discovered that in the short year since the ALP took power, jobs and employment were destroyed in this country. The unemployment rate was 14 percent overall and, most shockingly, the unemployment rate of people 25 years and younger was 34 percent.
He however suggested that the government and Social Security should take a policy giving priority to pensioners who have smaller payouts.
“I would suggest that the government and Social Security look at taking a policy position to ensure the on-time payments of smaller pensions. Those should take priority over the larger ones because of the reasons I just outlined. Those people are in fact the most vulnerable.
“I know there’s currently a policy where if I am paid on time this month, you paying me late the next month and then you have it on rotation, the staggering. But I would suggest that you give preference to the smaller pensions because those are the people that, if it is not paid, they can’t find their cooking gas, they have to go and borrow and do this, they can’t get medicines that may not be covered by the MBS (Medical Benefits Scheme) and so on. There are serious implications and we need to see that this be brought to heel.”