The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) says it does not support the SSB’s proposal to increase contributions to the fund. This is what BCCI President Nikita Usher said in an interview aired on Love News earlier this week. According to Usher, the BCCI cannot support the proposal because besides increasing contributions and benefits, the proposal will also increase the cost of doing business. However, according to the General Manager of Corporate Customer Relation Services at SSB, Chandra Nisbet Cansino their proposal was not flatly rejected.
Chandra Nisbet Cansino, GM, Corporate Relations, SSB: “We felt the need to clarify what we considered a misleading headline or a misleading perception that the chamber opposes the increase of the Social Security Contributions because in a letter written to Social Security by the chamber in no uncertain terms they acknowledge that change is necessary and not only that it’s necessary but that it should occur more frequently. Just as you may know in order to initiate the discussions with the stakeholders which includes both the employers and the workers Social Security shared a couple of options in these presentations that we’ve been doing across the country which we’ve always maintained were negotiable, it was just an initiation to the conversation and this is precisely what the chamber has done- they have now proposed another approach to the increase which is a more phased in approach and to which we are very open to discuss. The proposal is certainly more palatable to the worker than it is the business community because they pay such a significant amount of the contributions and most of the benefits are for the workers so we very much respect their response. We are ready to sit down again and have the discussion. Our proposal is that we are asking that the contributions are increased for persons that make $320 up to $520 so the present wage bands will not be affected. Persons who are making up to $320 under the current system will not be asked to pay more and that is extremely important because I note the discussions in the various social media news discussions basically seem to think that we are asking persons to pay more- we are asking persons who make more to pay more and in addition to paying more your benefits will increase and so that is the position that we are proposing at this time for a specific group and that is persons who are making from $300 to $520; so those are the only persons that will be affected, the only workers that will be affected under Social Security’s proposal. The ones below will not be affected and the ones that will be affected their benefits will also increase so they will be getting higher wage benefits for sickness, death and maternity etc. and they will be getting higher pensions. And so that is important for us to clarify as we go forward. Of course now the employers will be affected because the will have to pay more for all the employees that make between $320 to $520 so that is their concern so the perspectives are different. It’s very much more palatable for the worker than it is for the business community at this time so we need to sit with everybody and try to determine the best way forward.”
Reporter: The BCCI has not flatly rejected the proposal?
Chandra Nisbet Cansino, GM, Corporate Relations, SSB: Not at all. Not at all, they accept that it is necessary but I think, as you rightly said any increase in the payment of contributions to Social Security will increase their cost of business and so that is their concern and so we don’t see them as an adversary- we see them more as a partner. They have made some very good recommendations in the letter that they wrote in their response and so we look forward to sitting back down and reviewing their recommendations and trying to chart a way forward for everyone.”
The SSB has also written to the unions and is expecting their views on the proposal.