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Kabbah Opens NASSIT Office in Makeni

17 May 2007 at 02:36 | 451 views

KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY
HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT,
ALHAJI DR. AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH
ON THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE NORTHERN
PROVINCE OFFICE OF NASSIT - MAKENI
WEDNESDAY THE 16TH OF MAY 2007

SALUTATION

It is a great pleasure to be here today in Makeni to perform a function that will stand out as one of the most gratifying of my tenure as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. The inauguration of the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) in 2001 was the fulfillment of one of the dreams I have had for the progress and prosperity of my country. To witness its growth and expansion to various parts of the country through the construction of Regional Offices in Makeni, Bo and Kenema, reinforces my vision that a social security scheme can be successfully put in place for the protection of our people against damaging social and economic contingencies.

Social Security can be generally defined as, “A body of measures that a society may take to protect its members against social and economic distress in the event of substantial loss of income by any of the following contingencies:

· Invalidity

· Death

· Old age

· Maternity

· Sickness

· Employment injury

· Loss of Family support

· Unemployment

· Loss of Medical support”

Never before had such a scheme been put in place in our country. The closest institution to social security is the old pension scheme whose payments are sometimes so low that it costs the pensioner more to go get his/her pension than the pension itself. Salaries were equally extremely low and some Government clerks took home no more than Le4000 per month at the time I assumed office as President in 1996. This was not even enough to pay his transport fare for a day from a place like Calaba Town to Youyi Building on the other side of town, not to mention his other expenditures.

One of the first measures taken by my Government on assuming office in 1996, was therefore to conduct a poverty survey one of whose recommendations was that no one should be paid a salary less than Le21,000 per month. We then passed the Minimum Wage Act making it a criminal offence to pay any worker less than that amount. Our intention is to be able to peg salaries to a living wage index so that salaries and pensions would be adjusted according to increases in the cost of living. Regrettably, this exercise could not be implemented because the data base was destroyed by rebels during the war when they burnt down the Secretariat Building. The Government has now taken measures to rebuild the data base so that work can continue on this exercise.

However, the plight of employees who retire as a result of old age or any of the nine contingencies I mentioned earlier is still uncertain and many remain exposed to hardship. There are many still who are unemployed and roam the streets begging. Some Government workers who have reached senior positions suddenly look destitute after retirement. Others who do not want to experience the same fate are constrained to engage in dubious activities to ensure that they have something to fall back on after retirement.

This situation did not look good to me. I myself had been a senior civil servant for several years before joining the UN system. On my retirement, I had a generous pension from the UN which enabled me to live well and generally lead a good life. That pension also takes care of all my medical bills no matter where in the world I choose to seek medical treatment. It also makes provision for allowances to widows, widowers and children. When a spouse dies, the surviving partner continues to receive the pension of the deceased partner. That is how I came to continue to receive the pension of my late wife which incidentally, is higher than the salary of the President of Sierra Leone. In addition, I receive my own pension which is even higher. This may explain the reason why people frequently say that I look much younger than my real age would suggest.

This is the background to my determination to introduce a social security scheme in this country. The source of funding is from you the contributor and your employer in an arrangement that is not much different from what we know here as “Osusu”. Since only about 10% of the funds are spent at any particular time, NASSIT will wisely invest your money so that it can grow. From the proceeds, NASSIT will be able to pay benefits to you on your retirement or when you are afflicted by any one of the contingencies stipulated in the NASSIT Act. It is also from these funds that support to the Social Safety Net will be derived in the future. This is a scheme to support those who are aged 60 years and over and are without any sources of income. This is to help restore some dignity to the destitute and save them from begging in the streets. In the future, it should be possible to build homes for them as well as provide food as they do in some developed and developing countries. Some of the eligible people from all parts of the country are already receiving benefits from this scheme.

This building is the NASSIT Headquarters for the Northern Province and you should all take advantage of the opportunities it offers. You should ask the NASSIT staff here, to explain to you how you can participate in the programme and how it can respond to your particular needs. As long as you are able to earn something, you can contribute to the scheme. It is a scheme to protect you and provide for you in your old age or when you are struck by disability or misfortune. Pensions are paid out as early as 15 days after you retire or in the event of your suffering from a contingency.

The success of the NASSIT scheme is a clear indication that there is nothing wrong with dreaming of something good for your country. In fact, dreaming and having visions are indispensable virtues of good leadership. King Solomon, who is reputed to be the wisest man to have lived is quoted as having observed that, “Without a vision, the people perish”. Without the vision for a scheme to protect our people in their old age, there would have been no NASSIT today. WE thank God for that.

At this juncture, I should like to commend the Board, Management and staff of NASSIT for a job well done. We shall pray that God continue to guide them to do their work to the best of their abilities.

As the Vice President has been my closest associate in fulfilling the dream of establishing this social security scheme, my fervent hope is that you will support him to become the next President so that he can continue where I leave off. This is because the surest way to fight poverty is to ensure that only those who have been intimately involved in programmes to eliminate it are given the opportunity to continue since all they have to do is to fine tune the process.

On that note, it is now my pleasure to declare this NASSIT BUILDING open.

I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION

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