Remarks by CARICOM SG, Opening, 30th Mtg, Heads of CARICOM Social Security Organisations, Georgetown, 16 July 2019
Posted in: Speeches by admin | 16 July 2019 | 1202
Honourable Dr. Nicolette Henry, Minister of Education, Co-operative Republic of Guyana;
Ms. Holly Greaves, General Manager, National Insurance Scheme and Chairperson of the Thirtieth Meeting of Heads of CARICOM Social Security Organisations;
Directors, CARICOM Social Security Organisations;
Ms. Milka Mungunda, Vice-President, International Social Security Association;
Mr. Reginald Thomas, Director, Inter-American Centre for Social Security Studies;
Ms. Claudia Coenjaerts, Director, International Labour Organisation; Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean;
Mr. Mariano Brener, Regional Coordinator for the Americas International Social Security Association.
It is indeed a pleasure to address you, the Heads of CARICOM Social Security Organisations, on the occasion of your Thirtieth Meeting. It is particularly so, as I am advised that this is the first time that a Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community has had the opportunity to do so.
On behalf of our Community, I wish to thank you for the important work that you continue to lead in your respective Member States, and collectively at the regional level. The support from social security systems allows beneficiaries, particularly those out of the workforce, to be afforded a measure of relief at critical times.
This support takes several forms including retirement, maternity, and injury benefits, and this is a factor in helping to achieve one of the strategic priorities identified in the Community’s 2015-2019 Strategic Plan, Building Social Resilience. The safety nets provided by the institutions you lead, play an important role in the socio-economic fabric of our Region.
A robust social security system is also a valuable element in the successful implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). The CARICOM Agreement on Social Security (CASS), which entered into force in 1997 and in which thirteen CARICOM Member States participate, is a key measure in ensuring that our Community nationals are able to access their social security benefits as they move and work within the Single Market.
Ensuring cross-border access to these benefits serves as an added incentive to those wishing to avail themselves of opportunities under the various regimes of the CSME.
Although Community nationals are accessing benefits under the CARICOM Social Security Agreement there are some operational challenges, principally with protracted processing times and delays in the payment of benefits. The Secretariat, with financing from the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) will be undertaking research to develop a mechanism to streamline the process, making it easier for those who have moved within the Region for work to access their social security benefits.
There are some immediate administrative actions that can be taken to help in addressing some of the current challenges, and in fulfilling our regional objectives. I refer to the timely and consistent submission of data on the implementation of the CARICOM Agreement. This is key for monitoring its impact and would be invaluable in informing future policy development.
There must also be full reporting to your respective line Ministries so that the relevant Community Ministerial Councils could be advised of the status of pertinent issues and appropriate regional policy responses could be developed.
The International Social Security Association (ISSA), has recognised the key role of social security provisions, in the context of labour migration. It identifies Protection of Migrant Workers as Challenge No. 8 in its Ten Global Challenges for Social Security. I am aware that you have adopted this as a standing issue to be considered at your annual meetings.
The importance of social protection mechanisms in advancing development is also recognised in the United Nations 2030 Development Agenda, as articulated by the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 1 seeks to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” and one of the targets identified (target 1.3) is to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable.”
There is no doubt about social security’s fundamental value in maintaining a significant degree of stability in the society. In that context the sustainability of social security funding becomes critical. There are significant challenges to be addressed in attempting to ensure that sustainability. I note that you will be considering some of these over the next two days.
One of those areas, the impact of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), is also a major item on the Community’s agenda. The medical cost, the impact of labour productivity and other factors related to NCDs translate to about 3-5 percent of GDP in our Region. The prevalence of NCDs no doubt has had an effect on social security systems and the results of your working group on the issue could provide a valuable insight into the depth of this problem.
Another challenge to maintaining a healthy financial state is the changing nature of work and labour markets. An increase in non-standard forms of employment has had an impact on contributions to the systems. It has also affected coverage for those who are employed under such conditions.
I wish to underscore the role of this forum as a space for you to develop solutions to address the challenges. I trust that you would be able to learn from each other’s national experiences to strengthen both your domestic and the regional systems.
As you continue to collaborate regionally, through these annual meetings, I also encourage you to strengthen your hemispheric and global partnerships. The continued participation of the International Social Security Association, the International Labour Organisation, the Inter-American Conference on Social Security and the Inter-American Centre for Social Security Studies is testimony to the existence of strong bonds. I thank these key partners for their work in our Region and look forward to these important relationships being further strengthened. As we learn from their experiences in other Regions, I trust that lessons learnt from the Caribbean can also be adopted across the globe.
Before I close, I wish to congratulate the host, the Guyana National Insurance Scheme on its Fiftieth Anniversary - fifty years of providing benefits and fifty years of making lives better. I also wish to congratulate the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on its centennial anniversary - one hundred years of advancing social justice, tripartite collaboration and decent work. The ILO commemorates another important milestone in 2019 - the fiftieth anniversary of their presence in the Caribbean. We look forward to our continued partnership with the ILO through its sub-regional office in Trinidad and Tobago.
Finally, I reiterate on behalf of the Community sincere gratitude for your crucial work and wish you success in your deliberations over the next two days. I look forward to continuing our work together to promote the value of social security systems and its benefits to the people of our Community.
I thank you.
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