In 1965, the ruling Antigua Labour Party (ALP) Government realized the need for more adequate provision for the Nation’s poor and indigent and articulated, in its five-year (1966 – 1970) Development Plan, its intention to replace the existing Poor Relief System – a National Provident Fund.
In September 1970, the Government passed a National Provident Fund Act. At that time, a request was made to the International Labour Office (ILO) for expert assistance in the designing and structuring of the Fund and in framing the necessary legislation. The ILO responded by making available the services of Mr. James Grives, an Expert from the United Kingdom, to facilitate the process. However, the establishment of the National Provident Fund was never realized.
The general elections in 1971 resulted in a change of government and in the following year, 1972, the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) administration commissioned a thorough study of the implications and recommendations contained in the Grives Report. On 11th July 1972, the Social Security Act was passed and Antigua and Barbuda became the first country in the O.E.C.S to have introduced a full-fledged Social Security System. With the enactment of the Social Security Act (CAP .408), the Social Security Fund was established to provide the active insured population of Antigua and Barbuda and their dependents with some degree of income security in the event of sickness, maternity, invalidity, retirement and death. Provisions were also made for the introduction of Employment Injury Benefit.
Additional assistance was requested by Government under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which included the following:-
- The provision of an expert in social insurance administration to provide advice and guidance to the Director throughout the period of planning and initial implementation; and
- The assistance of an Actuarial Adviser to work with the administration expert during the early stages of the Social Security Fund.
On 13th September 1972, the ILO appointed Mr. S. C. Laundy of the United Kingdom, an expert in Social Security Legislation and Administration, to an initial 12-month assignment, which was subsequently extended to 30 months. Mr. F. G. Smith, an Actuarial Adviser, was assigned on 22nd October of that same year for a period of 12 months. Mr. George Goodwin Snr. was appointed Director (Ag.) initially; after which, Mr. David Kelsick was appointed Director.
The Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Board (ABSSB) began operations on 2nd April 1973.
The ABSSB is responsible for the funds collected and the payment of cash benefits to contributors. In addition, the Organization has a mandate to inform its stakeholders about the programmes, benefits and services provided as well as any pending parametric and policy changes. The ABSSB currently falls under the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance. The Organization’s Directorate – comprising of the Director, the Deputy Director and the Executive Assistant – has administrative responsibilities for all functional areas, namely Finance & Investment, Research & Communications, Compliance, Benefits, Information Technology, Human Resources, Legal, Internal Audit, Customer Relations, and Facilities Maintenance.
Along with its day-to-day functions, the Organization is expected to provide the necessary balance as it responds to the constant pressures from a rapidly changing environment, the evolving organizational design and the varied demands of staff. The ABSSB has several attractive features, namely:
- The universal coverage offered by the system assures workers that their protection will follow them when they change jobs.
- The vesting and complete portability of credits earned. In other words, employees can have their earnings automatically combined from all places of employment; and, full credit given towards determining their pension.
- Social Security’s ability to finance the benefits rest on the entire economy and not just on one company or sector/industry.
- Benefits under social security also adjust readily to changing wage conditions through benefit and ceiling increases.
- Social Security has many social elements, i.e. survivors’ protection for widowhood and children; invalidity protection before retirement for workers and their families; and, in some cases, an Old-Age Assistance Benefit Programme.