St. Maarten Finance Minister inquires about investment opportunities

POSTED: 01/17/12 12:54 PM

Director of the General Pension Fund of St. Maarten (APS) Kendra Arnell (left) presents Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto (center) with the organization’s budget, in the presence of the board chairman Franklyn Richards. (APS Photo)

St. Maarten Pension Fund will make its first payments this month

St. Maarten – Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto announced Monday that the General Pension Fund of St. Maarten (APS) will begin paying out pensions to former civil servants and government owned companies as of the end of January. This is part of the agency’s takeover of tasks from the General Pension Fund of the Netherlands Antilles (APNA).

The announcement of the payouts was made in a statement after a presentation attended by the minister, two members from the Governments Accounting Bureau SOAB, two external advisors from MONTAE Investment Firm, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance, Head of the Accounting Department, the Concern Controller and staff from the Ministry of Finance.

Parties also left the meeting with a principle agreement for the government to remain current in its payments and to clear up arrears. In a statement on the meeting Shigemoto has said that he is busy setting up coordination between the Personnel Department, Salaries and Wages, and the fund in order to ensure both goals are met.

 

Parties also left Monday’s meeting with an agreement to set up a steering group consisting of a board member of the pension fund and a representative of the cabinet of the Minister of Finance. The group will guide and monitor some of the more incomplete technical exercises like placing the administrations on one line where it comes to premium contributions and personnel information.

“The APS fund is in its developmental phase and is hard at work to make this fund work efficiently and maintain its solvency as well provide adequate service to its customers both internal and external. We were informed of the progress that has been made since the establishment of our national pension fund,” Shigemoto said.

Investments

Shigemoto and staffers also asked many questions about what kind of local investments the General Pension Fund of St. Maarten (APS) can make. The body is legally required to invest 60 percent of its income locally and another 40 percent abroad. These investments are guided by a three member committee that currently consists of Francis Bowman and Myrtille Brookson. The third member has yet to be appointed.

The organization’s board chairman Franklyn Richards said they are interested in “prudent investments” that will yield “the highest possible return” and “contribute to the well-being of the members of the pension fund by securing future pension incomes.” He also stressed that all requests must comply with the organization’s investment guidelines.

“This is a momentous development for our country. The potential for the fund to invest in St. Maarten is certainly present. This must be done in a most responsible manner in order to safeguard the longevity and strength of the fund for future generations,” board chairman Franklyn Richards said.

“Things are looking positive for 2012, but prudence is necessary in managing our pension system. We have to look at ways of keeping the pension fund solvent and manageable. As we all know, pension systems in Europe and other parts of the world are under heavy stress due to the global financial and economic situation. Some very important decisions will have to be made in order to be able to deal with the costs involved in 15-20 years when our society would have aged considerably. I have confidence in the board and management of APS that we will weather these challenging times based on the resilience of our people,” Shigemoto said.

Organization

APS is run by Kendra Arnell and her staff on a daily basis. They are responsible for pension related tasks of active civil servants, former civil servants and employees of government owned companies. This body does not handle AOW pensions. Their work is supervised by the board that Richards chairs. The other board members are Richard F. Gibson jr, Eunicio S. Martina, Alfred de Windt and Michel Soons (member).

All work is currently being coordinated from APS’ temporary office in Cay Hill. The body will be moving to the Yogesh Commercial Complex in February. Two of the most important projects at the moment are on incorporating all pension schemes of government owned/related entities into APS’ business model and introducing the finest possible level of service. The latter is part of the broader strategy of making APS the “most efficient, professional and customer friendly organization.”

Mandatory enrolment

Enrolment in the pension plan is mandatory for every employee who started employment on a contract or with an appointment for longer than six months, on or after January 1st, 1998. Prior to this, participation was on a voluntary basis. The pension premium is partly paid by the employee (currently 8%, withheld from salary by the employer) and partly by the employer (currently around 14%, visible on the employee’s pay slip).

 

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