By Orville Williams
The Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Board (ABSSB) is remaining hopeful that collections will improve in the near future, to equip it to meet its financial obligations in a timelier manner.
Speaking on the status of those obligations yesterday, Director of the ABSSB, David Matthias explained that the levels of unemployment and economic inactivity in the country continue to hinder the payment of contributions, which in turn affects the ABSSB by hindering its ability to make pension and other payments.
This has been a recurring theme throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially when the hospitality sector ground to a halt due to border closures all around the world.
There could be some reprieve in the near future, however, with the ABSSB set to receive a financial injection from the government, via a US $25 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Matthias says depending on the timing of that disbursement, it could contribute significantly to the settling of their outstanding obligations.
“My understanding is that the equivalent of one month’s pension payment has been pledged out of the CDB loan. Now, that one month means that the timing of the receipt of that is where it becomes critical.
“If I receive that at the time when I’m actually having my greatest inflow, which is when I’m realising $7 million – normally around the 14th of the month, assuming that I have not touched any portion of that money to settle any previous months – it means that [by acquiring] $11 million in that one instance, I have the $18 million that I need to clear off everyone.
“[However], that whole equation becomes dependent on my not having any balances carrying forward from a previous month at that time,” Matthias explained.
The Director also discussed the impact of the collection issue on the payment of short-term benefits such as maternity and sickness, while pointing to the broader impact on their operations.
“With regard to short-term benefits, these are persons who would have been waiting longer, in that we are at least four to five months delayed in making those payments, being that we do not collect sufficient [amounts] within the month to satisfy both payments.
“I often fight in my mind as to how to best explain to the people of Antigua and Barbuda the challenge that we at Social Security [are] experiencing at this time; the best way to really do it is to provide a numerical example.
“It requires $13 million to fully fund Social Security’s operations. As of July, 2020 … we normally collected on a monthly basis, roughly nine to ten million dollars. What we would have seen is that we would have been realising only four and a-half million, five million dollars on a monthly basis.
“This is to say that we are therefore short as much as nine million dollars at the time,” he said.
Despite the prolonged challenges, the Social Security Board announced that it will commence pension payments for the month of August by next Monday, while payments for September also remain outstanding.