21st January 2016
Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne has announced that his government has reached an agreement with the Medical Benefits Scheme to wipe off debt with the institution.
“Even though Central Government has the right to pursue a set-off of these debts, we have agreed with the Board of MBS to a debt for asset swap to include Mt. St. John and the Government’s shares in the Cancer Centre. This will eliminate the debt in its entirety,” said PM Browne.
Governments over the years have amassed a debt to the MBS over $250 million dollars.
In making his presentation on the government’s standing with the MBS during the Budget Presentation, Prime Minister Browne said that his government is committed to paying contributions to both MBS and Social Security and to ensure that the people of this nation are provided world class living standards.
“We have already demonstrated this commitment with investments in medical equipment and supplies to the Mount St. John Medical Centre; with the successful eye care programme; and with scholarships to train doctors and nurses. My government has not corruptly gambled MBS monies in failed investment schemes. Almost $20 million was lost in the BAICO/CLICO debacle and further a $13.5 million was also wasted on a boat that never sailed; a cotton farm and a pineapple farm that yielded neither crop nor revenue,” he stated.
The country’s leader also pointed out that as a consequence of poor investments, $13.5 million was lost, and the Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank (ABDB) was bankrupted and is now in need of an injection of $24 million to break even.
He also made it clear that the Medical Benefits was established as a special fund to provide financial and other assistance towards the healthcare cost of the nation.
“MBS is therefore legally responsible for funding healthcare for all citizens and residents, with supplemental support from Central Government. It was not intended to be an investment Fund to carry hundreds of millions in Government securities on its books. The Medical Benefits’ obligation, to fund healthcare has not been fully met, leaving Central Government to cover these costs, which far exceed the amounts payable to MBS,” PM Browne stated.
The country’s leader also announced that his government has agreed to establish a monthly standing order to cover contributions. The Government today, remitted $2.7 million to commence payments for 2016.