By Latrishka Thomas
Officials are pleading with pensioners to exercise some level of patience as, due to economic challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Board (ABSSB) struggles to make payments.
Pensioners are said to be owed monies for July and August and, according to Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst, the government is doing its utmost best to bring payments up to date.
According to Hurst, the late payments are “because the economy is not functioning the way our economy normally functions, and it’s not functioning that way because of Covid”.
He propounded, “It is going to require some prayer and some patience and, of course, some manoeuvring on the part of the government of Antigua and Barbuda which it has been doing.”
The Director of the ABSSB, David Matthias, shared similar sentiments and also indicated that pensioners are continuously prioritised.
“Pensioners are complaining but pensioners have received their payments every single month … pensions are behind by a month but there are contributors who are behind by as many as six months because the funds just do not come in to enable us to make blended payments; that is, paying both long term and short term.
“Because we deem the pensioners to be at risk because they are dependent on social security income, we made every effort to prioritise them. That means there is someone else who is not in receipt of a benefit,” Matthias stated.
Nevertheless, he said that the scheme is working “assiduously, above and beyond to ensure that persons receive their benefits in a timely manner”.
He reiterated that due to unemployment and lay-offs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the contributions into the scheme have been significantly impacted “but beyond that, this is historically within the exercise of normal business activity in Antigua and Barbuda for slower periods”.
Matthias further explained that between June and November each year, the country experiences a significant decline in revenue.
However, the ABSSB boss said he hopes that the upcoming year will be more promising.
“We expect that in the coming year, with much more uptake in the tourism sector, that things should improve, but Covid and its impact on our economy being as it is, is something that is likely to be with us for a while, so these delays from time to time will be expected,” he concluded.