A candidate for the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) is following through with plans to lead a picket this morning outside the offices of the Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Board (ABSSB) on Long Street.
Franz deFreitas, the party’s representative for the St John’s City South Constituency, is inviting residents to gather from 7:30am in support of senior citizens who have encountered challenges in receiving their Social Security pension payments on a timely basis.
“Many pensioners have been negatively impacted by this occurrence and some of them have had to turn to crime and begging,” deFreitas said.
“I think that is not right for our senior citizens, and unless we stand up as a nation and say it is inappropriate to disrespect our senior citizens, it seems like we are going to continue to abuse them and I, for one, am not going to tolerate that.”
Earlier this month, the Director of the ABSSB, David Matthias told Observer that the Board had received a $10 million cash injection from the government which covered all outstanding pension payments for the months of September and October, and the ABSSB was working towards making the November payments.
Incidentally, in a notice posted earlier this week, the ABSSB advised walk-in pensioners that payments for November would have commenced yesterday, November 29, and the distribution of cheques would be disbursed according to their surnames.
The $10 million injection to Social Security was made possible through a US $25 million loan granted to the government by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Meanwhile, deFreitas believes the move by the statutory corporation to cover the outstanding pensioners is in response to the announcement of the picket.
He insisted that the government and related organisations should be held accountable.
“Because you paid for the months that you are outstanding does not mean we are going to go home and forget that you disrespect us; we are talking about a pattern here. We want to stop that pattern; we want you to be aware that we are going to hold your feet to the fire. Not only for the last time but going forward in the future,” the UPP candidate said.
“From where I sit there are two sets of people you do not play with in Antigua and Barbuda — the seniors who have put in their time and work, and the children who are coming up in the next generation,” he said.
Meanwhile, deFreitas said that another picket this time outside the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) premises, particularly the Water Business Unit, is also in the works, and the date and time will be announced shortly.