by Mike Campbell
We are continually subjected to Social Security scandals that are sickening to the heart. This money is collected from hardworking Belizeans and their employers. This money belongs to the workers whose labor created it and no one else. The Social Security Board has a scared responsibility to hold this money in trust for those that contributed it. They have an absolute moral and legal responsibility to manage this money responsibly.
The current uproar over the insider trading issues is the smoke not the fire. The fire is that each and every one of the Social Security loans were based originally on insider trading. Few in the country even knew that such a program existed. The idea that it was for a select group (Social Security employees) is infuriating. To add insult to injury the government will now reward them all for their efforts by writing off the loans.
This pattern repeats itself over and over, from Fresh Catch/ Mena Group to the 3,000-acre land “deal” on North Ambergris Caye and many more. Each and every one of these loans was inappropriate and not in the best interest of the country and surely not in the best interest of the workers that contributed the money. The large loans to insider companies actually place the workers money at risk. Bankruptcy and depreciated assets or property values could spell almost total loss in some cases. The quality of the home loans is based on the assumption that home prices will be stable which may or not be the case depending on many constantly changing factors and place the workers money at risk. Both types of “investments” put the Social Security Board in the strange position of competing with commercial banks. Our government should not be competing with private sector. Social Security money should be invested in secure financial instruments that bear low interest but are certainly safer than loaning money to a bankrupt company or betting on the stability of the real estate market.
I have contributed substantial amounts to the Social Security system in the name of my employees and never intended it to be used for anything except the welfare of those who contributed it. Hard to believe that the man sweating it out in the hot sun has financed the house of someone who works under air conditioning with tons of benefits and at a beneficial rate of 8%. We have fallen to where we do not even recognize corruption when it slaps us in the face. We have become so accustomed to being abused that we just accept it as how things are in Belize.
A much more appropriate use for the fund would to be to create an unemployment insurance scheme. If we had had this in place the economic down turn would have been cushioned for many who have lost their homes. We could also consider enhancing benefits to our senior citizens. Most anything would be better than seeing them loan the money to themselves or their crony companies at 8% interest while some of the people that contributed that money are loosing their homes because they lost their jobs and had to pay commercial rates for their mortgages, often at double the “crony rate”.
I have been unable to pinpoint exactly when this program started, as it does not show on any database I can access. I would not be surprised to find that it was started around election time many years ago and has been used by both parties for years as a way to buy votes and loyalty. Lots of shame to go around on this one.