NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (July 01, 2016) – The following is an address delivered by Hon. Vance Amory, Minister of Social Security in St. Kitts and Nevis on June 29, 2016, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board observed on July 01, 2016.
Fellow citizens and residents, greetings,
When the Social Security Fund of St. Kitts and Nevis was launched in 1978 as a response to the evident need for social protection of all working people, it was always intended that at an appropriate time, access to the benefits would be expanded to include self-employed persons.
That appropriate time was attained on the 1st of July 1996, when self-employed persons were brought under the umbrella of Social Security. Since that time, the Social Security Fund of our Federation has seen many challenges as it has sought to nurture this aspect of social inclusion, in its bid to achieve some degree of social justice for this (sometimes) elusive sector.
The evidence over the years has shown that while many persons have taken advantage of the opportunity to protect themselves and have been diligent in making their contributions towards such protection, there are still too many more of our hardworking self-employed persons who have not taken that very important stance. Those persons are to be encouraged to get on board and protect themselves without any further delay.
The evidence also shows, that several persons who had no other contributions as employees (because they were never employed by an employer) and who took the sensible step of registering when this coverage became available, have had the good fortune of eventually qualifying for a pension based strictly on self-employed contributions. This was possible after contributing at least 10 years’ worth of contributions into the Fund. These persons are to be congratulated for their foresight.
It is noteworthy, that to date, there are 256 persons who are receiving pensions from Social Security whose benefits were made possible or enhanced as a result of their making contributions under the self-employed coverage. Of that number, 28 of them were able to qualify based on just self-employed contributions alone.
It is my understanding, that the Board and staff of Social Security have always had the huge task of selling the virtues of self-employed coverage. They have been doing all that is required to convince the reluctant and the carefree ones, who have not yet seen the light, that the self-employed are important and deserve benefit and that they too need the protection of Social Security just like their brothers and sisters working for employers.
Throughout the years, the staff of the institution has also worked extremely hard with the support of all other stakeholders, including government, to seek to ensure that while growth in terms of years is attained, some measure of progress is indeed achieved. Collectively, we hold ourselves up for scrutiny for the public and our various stakeholders to assess what has in fact been our stewardship in that regard.
On this 20th anniversary, we now seek to pause and reflect, but also to honour both our attainments and our achievements. The Board has thought it fit to adopt as its theme at this time the mantra: “In Solidarity with the Self-Employed to Secure Their Future”. It is the intention that by virtue of the public discourse that will be generated, a number of related objectives will be spawned including the following:
To raise the level of awareness among unregistered persons in the sector
To increase the level of compliance among registered self-employed persons
To increase awareness of the specifics of the self-employed programme including duality and changes in contribution categories
To introduce special new initiatives to provide greater service to self-employed persons
The observance activities which have been planned by the Board, management and staff are as follows:
This very statement, by myself as Minister, is being given as the launching pad for all of the other activities that will intersperse and span the month of July.
It is my hope that it will help in some small way to sensitize you to the significance which together my Ministry and the government as a whole, attach to the cause of self-employed coverage and to the efforts of the hard working Board and staff of the institution.
I would like to use this opportunity, to remind all self-employed persons that their coverage is not optional but it is mandatory, as we view this as a very necessary form of protection for persons particularly since social security coverage is viewed as a human right.
On Sunday 3rd July, all persons connected to the head office operations will join in giving thanks to God by way of their engagement in corporate worship at the Antioch Baptist Church in Basseterre at 9:30 a.m. For those of you who can find it possible to join with us in that service, you are most welcome to share in that worship experience.
During the week of 4th to 8th July, we expect to hear, coming through a variety of media outlets, special messages highlighting the positive impact of the coverage, in terms of what it has meant and still means to some of our ordinary persons who have been engaged in the sector within the past 20 years.
On Thursday 7th July, at the head office, self-employed persons will be invited to make a special visit to the office to take advantage of one-on-one opportunities to deal with a range of matters, as part of what is being dubbed as Self-Employed Clinic Day.
Among the areas to be covered are: General Self-Employed Education and Advice on Benefit Entitlements and Dual Coverage; registration; special assistance to help delinquents get back on track (e.g. negotiated waivers of fines, etc.); application for Certificates of Good Standing; sign-up for a proposed unique business directory; financial/banking information and advice; retirement planning; insurance; and blood pressure and blood sugar screening for hypertension and diabetes.
On the 17th of July at 5 p.m., the Sports and Social Club of the Social Security Board will be hosting a ‘7 a side’ soccer tournament involving specially invited self-employed persons, Social Security staff members and persons representing other corporate entities. This will be staged at the New Town Playing field in Basseterre.
On the 20th of July, the Board will be taking the opportunity to conduct the official opening exercises in respect of its new premises situated at Pinney’s Estate on Nevis. This is slated to begin at 11 a.m. and will segue into the Branch Office edition of Self-Employed Clinic Day on Nevis immediately after.
In this edition also, self-employed persons will be invited to make a special visit to the office to take advantage of one-on-one opportunities to deal with a range of matters as outlined earlier; and which bear repeating.
They are: general self-employed education and advice on benefit entitlements and dual coverage; registration; special assistance to help delinquents get back on track (e.g. negotiated waivers of fines, etc.); application for Certificates of Good Standing; sign-up for a proposed unique business directory; financial/banking information and advice; retirement planning; insurance; and blood pressure and blood sugar screening for hypertension and diabetes.
On 24th July, it will be the turn of the Branch Office staff and all persons connected to the Nevis Branch Office to participate in corporate worship at the Butlers Church of God at 10: 00 a.m. In this case also, for those of you who can find it possible to join with us in that service, you are most welcome to do so.
To close out the month of activities, there will be a panel discussion on ZIZ Television to be staged on Monday 25th July. The details of this panel discussion will be announced later by the relevant officers of the Social Security.
I am also aware that at some point in July or soon thereafter, the Board intends to launch two very special initiatives that should pique the interest of many small business persons engaged in self-employment on both of our two islands of St. Kitts and Nevis.
The first refers to something to which I have alluded in speaking about the Self-Employed Clinic Days; and that is a proposed special business directory. Once the logistics of that effort are crystallized, you will be given more information on that particular offering by the Social Security Board.
The other initiative is still a work in progress and is indeed still in its embryonic stages and therefore, I will leave the details of that initiative for appropriate announcement by the Social Security at a later stage.
I must point out at this time, that the Social Security Board is maintaining a very vigorous presence in social media and you can expect to glean much about this anniversary observance and about Social Security generally by interacting with these media. There’s Facebook and all of the other popular platforms @ sknssb and we are all encouraged to follow Social Security utilizing these various platforms.
I take pleasure in launching the series of observance activities to mark the 20th Anniversary of Self-Employed Coverage in our Federation and I commend them to all for your attention and participation where applicable.