Ronnie Skelton has declared that the Social Security Board for which he has ministerial responsibility is willing to invest in the government-owned National Bank of the Virgin Islands.
He made the declaration last evening (May 11) while lawmakers debated and eventually passed the Development Bank of the Virgin Islands Transfer of Assets and Liabilities (Amendment) Act 2017.
The amendments mainly seek to allow statutory bodies such as Social Security – as well as companies incorporated locally – to become shareholders in the National Bank. Under the current law, only Government is allowed to be a shareholder.
Skelton, in his contribution to the debate on the bill, said Social Security has enough money to invest.
“There is a portion of money in the Social Security portfolio – 10 or seven percent – that it is recommended that it should be invested in the BVI, into viable projects and companies. That’s what the Social Security is trying to do now,” he told the House.
Skelton added that Social Security’s proposed investment in the bank would probably be 2 percent of the total amount being allowed for local investment.
“It’s not a big percentage [that we would put into the National Bank],” he added.
Skelton also reasoned that it is now better for Social Security to invest its money locally than in other countries such as the United States.
“Now the Social Security Board has over $600 million worth of assets. It’s not for the government to do foolishness with it, but it’s for the Social Security Board to start doing things that are relevant for the contributors to the scheme that they can actually see and feel here,” Skelton continued. “We are at home and we see that we have viable things that we can invest our monies in – and we are not talking about investing all of it.”
The minister further said he thinks Social Security and the National Bank would be a good match.
“I think both institutions would be a good match because they are financial institutions now. One is lending money and the other is collecting money. It is important for us to make this amendment so that the Social Security Board and the Development Bank (now National Bank) will help us to build our country. I am sure, years from now, people will say ‘those guys sitting in the Council (now Assembly) were very smart people,” Skelton concluded.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie supported the minister’s intention to have Social Security become a shareholder in the National Bank.
“Social Security is the safest, better statutory body to place there… The minimum would be needed based on the bank and everything, I know probably it is about $25 million to $30 million – which is not a strenuous thing for Social Security. I always said Social Security is investing our money abroad; so it is not a problem for them to be investing home. I always maintain that for years,” Fahie further said. He also recommended that Social Security be represented on the board of the National Bank.
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