President of the Antigua and Barbuda Pensioners Association (ABPA), Evans Bennett, has described the constant late social security payments to pensioners as “a vexing issue”.
Contributions to the Antigua and Barbuda Social Security scheme have not been adequate to pay benefits to almost 11,000 pensioners, since contraction in economic activity, including layoffs, terminations and a drastic fluctuation in the tourism industry caused less people to be employed.
“In a press release, we said that we are insisting and we are pleading with the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance to assist us in that area for late payments because it has a serious impact. It’s not just late payments this time, it’s very late,” Bennett shared with Observer.
He said because of the sometimes month-long tardiness, his members have been made to incur penalties for late payments of loans, insurance and other debts that they would need to service.
Since issuing the press release, Bennett said the association has been bombarded with calls from persons suggesting that bank payments be deferred for pensioners for the next three months – it is a consideration that the president said he hopes to present to Cabinet at its next sitting.
More than 1,000 members are registered with the association, over 100 of which are shut-in because of some kind of disability.
“For the past few months or so, we have been trying to get some assistance from the general public and business places and also some assistance from government sectors to assist in the distribution of food packages for our most indigent members,” the president said.
He said, however, that the help needs to be consistent, at least for the next two months, having previously received vouchers and food packages from the Ministry of Social Transformation and the Lions Club.