SSB CEO Defends Decision to Invest in Liquor Industry Amidst Criticism on Social Media
While the gears are in motion for the loan, another aspect of the proposal that was criticized was the morality of the board to invest workers’ money in the liquor industry. SSB’s CEO, Deborah Ruiz, was asked to explain the decision process and weigh in on the potential social ills.
Deborah Ruiz, CEO, Social Security Board: “That was our question that was heavily debated at the investment committee in terms of the different stakeholder perspective, no? The consideration that took it over was because it was for the export market and it was not something that, you know, we recognize the challenges that most persons have in Belize, the high numbers, as you say, in terms of drinking, but it is a opportunity for a local businessman to invest and to bring in revenue to the fund and also that we do not feel that it would in any way jeopardize the Belizean community at this point because of the focus on strictly the export market. In terms of the debate of whether or not alcohol is a social vice that whether the Social Security I think that is something that we would have to explore further if there is any impact on the fund in any way in terms of our focus. But at this time the committees and everybody looking at it so far have not identified that as a high risk profile for this for the fund simply because we are generating employment and we would be generating income into the fund and growing a local business that hopefully will take footing based on the numbers that we have seen in the initial reports that have been done. The production that the company is purporting to do is a drop in the bucket of what is out there. Simply looking at Mexico, which is nearby and other areas that you would hope to venture into. Although the numbers are huge for us, it’s small compared to our population outside. So I don’t think it will have that much of a big footprint to say that we have compromised significantly. Just for the local consumption companies in Belize who produce and create good employment in these, as you know, those numbers, people do love their drink for social occasion. But I think looking at the social protection system that we have in place opportunities are there for us to also weigh in and make sure that there’s a balance to that in terms of the NCDs, the NHI and everything. So for our investment perspective we do not see it as a major hurdle at this point.”