Social security fund governance and other issues need attention, says St Kitts-Nevis opposition
Differences between the St Kitts and Nevis opposition and government emerged in parliament on Wednesday over the status and health of the country’s Social Security Fund.
MP Dr Timothy Harris, the leader of the opposition alliance Team Unity, alleged that a social security actuarial report intended to be laid in parliament had still not been produced 19 months later.
However, that view was challenged by Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, who contended that what is laid in the House is the social security board’s audited report.
The prime minister said that had been done on Tuesday.
The explanation followed Dr Harris’ allegation that the government was not keen on having social security’s status made readily available to opposition MPs because the report contained issues of governance, including political interference.
“Mr Speaker, you know what is critical? In this report the actuary raised the issue of governance with respect to social security, especially as it relates to investment decisions, the Social Security Fund has suffered from poor governance practices,” the MP told parliament.
He quoted the report as saying that “almost 18 per cent of our social security contribution income are consumed by operating costs at the social security”.
“This is excessive, with staff-related costs accounting for approximately two-thirds of operating costs,” Harris quoted further from the actuarial report.
He was speaking after being allowed by parliamentary opposition leader Mark Brantley to respond first to the Budget presentation made by Douglas on Tuesday.
The Team Unity leader had various unflattering descriptions of the budget.
“An imitation budget is like a poisoned fruit,” Harris said.
He also had concerns, he said, about “a minority of elected representatives presenting a budget”.
The opposition MP referred as well to the government engaging in “Christmas masquerading about a healthy economy”.
Parliament was informed by foreign affairs minister Patrice Nisbett that Iranian national Alizera Moghadam no longer has a St Kitts and Nevis diplomatic passport.
The Iranian caught the attention of Canadian authorities last year while entering Canada, and allegedly told them that he had purchased a St Kitts and Nevis diplomatic passport for one million dollars.
The Nisbett update came after Harris focused his attention on the citizenship by investment programme and Canada’s decision last month to impose visa requirements on holders of St Kitts and Nevis passports.