And while the clothing allowance is one issue, there is also the issue of the demand for a pension increase for the employees at Social Security Board. PUP’s Major Lloyd Jones also weighed in on this matter, saying that SSB should be about the people and that while he believes that, he also believes that that should be no excuse why the Government has not implemented an increase for pensioners in general.
“I know that based on my work on the ground there are a number of people in our division in Belize Rural North that are struggling with that little hundred dollars a month pension and Social Security has made it increasingly difficult for people, particularly the elderly to access these little funds. I think there has to be a proper balance struck between the monies that are paid out to pensioners and to people who are injured on the job. The administrative cost has to be kept in check. If you are spending too much on administration, it leaves very little for the people who are supposed to be beneficiaries of the fund. But I think the UDP has had an opportunity since 2008 to have increased that pension. I don’t find it a proper fit now to throw that out now because the unions are demanding an increase in their own benefits. It is the function and duty of the board to look at these matters and make timely interventions of adjusting for cost of living increases for pensioners and beneficiaries but also to balance the demands on the administrative sides in terms of the staff who administer the funds. At the end of the day, the Social Security fund is about the people, the workers, and that is where I think the emphasis must rest.”
Love News spoke to SSB’s Chairman, Doug Singh yesterday, who told us that the increase for pensioners has been in the pipeline for some time now and it is only a matter of time before it is implemented.
“Well that has been worked on to a great extent. You can’t just give the increase. You have to have the Actuary who comes to Belize once a year or so and he does the analysis to determine what you can and cannot do. The Actuary has released his report to the board; I believe it was at the last board meeting, if it wasn’t the board meeting before that. The board then asked him, what then, within the structures of the fund can we recommend to the Prime Minister to offer pensioners without compromising the fund and he has said what will have what impact on the fund. The letter has been drafted for the Prime Minister but this is not really a political thing. The Prime Minister had no input in it essentially. It is the board making a recommendation to the Prime Minister that he approves a pension and so that is in the process and so the letter has been drafted and it is just a matter of giving it to him. The recommendation is for the pension increase to be effective for January of next year so it wouldn’t be a political ploy of putting something in someone’s hand anyway. It’s a responsible action and it takes time to put the administration in place to adjust the pension.”
“Would you be able to say what the proposed figure is?”
“No, I can’t do that as yet because we haven’t even recommended it to the Prime Minister as yet. We’ve got the letter drafted, he hasn’t actually received it yet and he should get it anytime now.”
The last increase for pensioners was in 2002 when a twenty percent raise was given. That increase took the yearly pension to a minimum of two thousand four hundred and forty four dollars, equivalent to about two hundred dollars monthly. Pensioners who qualify for this money, are those between sixty and sixty four years old and not employed or you can be employed but be sixty five years or older. In addition to that you must have a total of five hundred paid and credited contributions. For those not qualifying, there is the possibility of a one-time Retirement Grant that they can receive. Meanwhile for women, aged sixty five years or older or men sixty seven years of older, there is the non-contributory pension which is one hundred dollars monthly. This program at the SSB is for those who have no source of income or inadequate means of support.