Social security reforms and their implications for the Caribbean
As in many other countries, the viability and sustainability of social security systems in the Caribbean is of concern to policy makers. Although systems in the region remain relatively young, liquid and healthy at this time, timely reform is necessary to prevent a crisis in the future. Reform is required to grapple with population ageing, a fairly large informal (non-contributing); sector in some countries, high open unemployment and the impact of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS);. Caribbean social security systems (pension branch); are defined benefits pay-as-you-go (PAYG); systems that are largely publicly managed. The performance of the systems has been creditable on average, with the accumulation of substantial reserves though administrative costs are too high. Some countries in the region have pursued parametric reforms-mainly increases in contribution rates and retirement age and adjustment to wage ceilings to maintain the viability of the systems in the future. These reforms could, through various transmission effects, impact on sustainability of social security systems themselves, but also labour markets, capital markets and economic performance. Importantly, in considering reform options, countries should not rule out including a structural reform pillar, similar to an individual retirement account, which could allow contributors to match their appetite for risk with desire for higher returns. Moreover, there is the possibility that this could have a beneficial effect on savings and investment. Overall, what is clear is all countries should move expeditiously to reform their social security systems and not delay until crisis is on their doorsteps.