Antigua Observer:– A pension for legendary Antigua and Barbuda and West Indies cricketer Sir Vivian Richards is among the benefits being considered by the government to honour its living national heroes.
Sir Lester Bryant Bird, the country’s second prime minister is the other living hero.
A release from Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting indicated that only the “Master Blaster” was being considered at this time.
Speaking at the post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday, Melford Nicholas, the information minister, noted that Sir Vivian’s exploits on the international stage meant that he would not have qualified for government benefits.
“There is a degree of deference that we have to someone like Sir Vivian Richards and I believe that the type of benefits that would accrue to him as part of what we want to do would include a pension. I don’t think Sir Vivian would have had the type of income stream to enjoy a pension from either of the pension streams,” Nicholas said.
He added that Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, the attorney general, has been tasked with putting together the necessary legislative measures to include the pension and “other supportive facilities.”
According to Nicholas, the legislation would be introduced in the Parliament in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, he noted that Sir Lester is already entitled to a pension as a result of his years in government service.
The minister also said that the Cabinet has urged the Pension Review Committee to intensify its work as retired government employees start calling for their benefits.
“The Pension Review Committee came about as a result of some concerns that were raised by individuals who have moved into their pension period and that the cycle time for them to receive the award and to start getting the benefit has become protracted so the initial objective of having the Pension Review Committee was to look at that whole process and to come up with some recommendations as to how it could be streamlined,” Nicholas told reporters.
According to the minister, the payout issues were not as a result of a lack of funds in the scheme.
He said the ratio of contributors to pensioners had become untenable as a result of high unemployment coinciding with more people reaching pensionable age, creating a “perfect storm” scenario under the former administration.