The Frank Walcott Building on Culloden Road, home of the National Insurance Scheme. (FP)

Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, has advised regional governments to ensure that their social security systems are strong enough to withstand the economic shocks from the global economic crisis.

She expressed this view today while addressing the opening ceremony of the 28th CARICOM Heads of Social Security Meeting at the Crane Resort, St. Philip.

Senator Byer Suckoo told her audience that despite the challenges to social security systems on account of the global economic crisis, the population will still be dependent on their pensions and benefits long after the recession has passed.

Cognisant of the pressures on the various social security institutions across the region, the Minister reminded the officials: “It is therefore important, now more than ever before, that you ensure the viability of your schemes in the face of such pressure.”

Noting that most social security systems in the region encountered similar challenges such as globalisation; low coverage among self-employed persons and the informal sector; the demographic shift towards aging populations; and the high rate of chronic NCDs, the Labour Minister said the meeting’s theme: Sustaining Social Security Systems in the Context of Economic and Social Pressures, was timely given the prevailing circumstances.

“The one positive is that if we realise we are in this together, that we have more similarities than differences and put our heads together, then, as they say, two heads are better than one.  Meetings such as this provide the opportunity to discuss matters of common interest, share ideas and chart the best way forward for your various organisations,” Senator Byer Suckoo underlined.

The three-day conference, which will conclude on Friday, attracted participants from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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