PM Meets With Pensioners Association


 The Head of the Pensioners’ Association and his Deputy requested an audience with Prime Minister Gaston Browne. The Pensioners’ Association’s leader wrote to PM Browne earlier in the month, listing a number of items of concern which the Pensioners’ Association and its members are interested in resolving.

 The trio held a thirty (30) minute meeting today – Thursday, 28th November, 2019 – with the Head of Government, the Chairman and the Deputy Director of the Social Security Board.  At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister pointed out that the only time in 2019 when pensions were paid late was at the end of September 2019. That late payment was the result of human error and not a shortage of resources.

            Prime Minister further explained that at the end of each month, the government pays Social Security EC$2.5 million (two million five hundred thousand dollars) or thirty million dollars a year in every calendar year since 2015.  His administration is the very first to pay in full the government’s obligation to Social Security, and not to have borrowed from Social Security reserves.

Prime Minister Browne explained that his administration is attempting to place Social Security on a sustainable pathway capable of generating income outside of monthly the contributions which it receives.

The leaders of the Pensioners’ Association indicated to the Prime Minister that they prefer to negotiate than to protest.  They indicated that they are aware that this administration inherited the problems which Social Security now pose.  For these reasons, the Pensioners’ Association has refrained from making public statements, although the press reports from time to time what other pensioners have said in public.

The pensioners addressed the issue of backpay owed to members and Prime Minister Browne has given the assurance that it will be addressed in the third week of December 2019.  They also discussed the re-establishment of a Pension Board which seemingly has been disbanded. The Prime Minister indicated that he will take this item before Cabinet on Wednesday of next week.  The leaders of the Pensioners’ Association also discussed the payment of an annual subvention; they noted that their records show no payment made in the year 2015/2016.  They also raised the issue of a discount card issued to them to permit up to a 10% discount at certain business places; the Prime Minister indicated that he will prepare such a letter for business places they might wish to identify.

The leaders of the Pensioners’ Association indicated that they currently operate a five-acre farm in Winthorpe and invited the Prime Minister to visit so that he could witness first-hand their own efforts at providing healthy vegetables to their own members and others.  The Prime Minister expressed an interest in operating a farm producing vegetables and fruits. He expressed the opinion that a Prime Minister who engages in farming would likely inspire many youth. He is of the view that those youth who may have difficulty filling jobs may wish to consider engaging in farming themselves.

The leaders of the Pensioners’ Association left the Prime Minister’s office quite satisfied that they have a good working relationship with Prime Minister Browne, and reported that their relationship with Ministers Yearwood and Weston is also highly valued.  They repeated that they believe in negotiations rather than protest.