Several reasons were given, inter alia (a) The purchasing of land at Franklands Estate which to date has not been developed and no plans have been put in place to recoup that investment (b) The purchasing of land at Church Street to build a parking lot, which prime commercial space sits empty at the moment and (c) The Beacon Heights Development which has been the major talking point in the Federation over the past week.
The expenditure of some $80 million dollars on this project comes at a time when the last Article IV consultation shows that the Social Security Scheme is under serious pressure and the Fund is facing ongoing challenges and if not managed properly could begin to run a deficit as early as 2029.
I called for an independent investigation into the project and the findings made public, to the owners of the assets of the Social Security Board, the people. The independence of the investigation is very important for the people of the Federation to be able to have confidence in the institutions of government. Lately there has not been much to shout about. The investigation of the collapse of the bridge on the West Basseterre By-Pass road still leaves a lot to be desired. The police sick out remains unanswered and the investigation into the explosion at the Needsmust power station still has not gotten off the ground. Because of these failed situations, independent minds in the country are weary of investigations.
I pointed out that the Board had a fiduciary responsibility, both individually and collectively, to the people of the country, since in the final analysis it was the people’s money at risk. More importantly was the fact that while all of this is taking place the recommendation before the Board of Social Security and the Minister responsible for Social Security shows that the people are going to be asked very shortly to contribute more of their hard-earned dollars. In fact, it is being sought from the contributors the following (a) To increase the age from 62 to perhaps 67 or 70. This means we are going to be asked to wait longer to be pensionable when in fact we are dying younger. (b) To increase the level of the employees contribution from 5% to perhaps 8 % or 11 % when at this time our disposable income is decreasing. If persons are required to have to suffer a greater burden by these measures to ensure that the Fund remains solvent into the future, then the people have a right to demand an investigation into the Beacon Heights project as the failure or success of this project can have an impact on the level of contribution from wages in the future. These are some of the matters that came before the Board to consider from the Actuarial Report of 2008 prepared by Derek Osborne of Montserrat.
Had it not been for the leaked Memo citizens would not have been the wiser. It begs the question about the other projects that the citizens have been asking about. The spending of some $250 million dollars at La Vallee which has put pressure also on the National Bank which is also the primary banker to the Social Security.
The country is waiting to see if this matter will be brushed aside and swept under the carpet.