An event today allowed us the opportunity to ask SSB's Chandra Cansino about the health of the country's social security infrastructure.
Last year, SSB couldn't collect the collections it had projected from workers because tens of thousands of Belizeans lost their jobs. Then, the Briceno Government suspended the final increase in social security contributions which was supposed to take effect at the beginning of the year. It was a concession granted as a slight relief to working Belizeans trying to come back after COVID's economic crisis.
Also, if you've been paying close attention to the daily COVID reports from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, you'll be able to appreciate the number of sick benefits that SSB has had to pay out to contributors who either became ill with COVID or who had to isolate for suspected exposure to the virus.
So, we asked the Cansino about the status of the Social Security Fund that must bear these shocks. Here's what she told us:
Chandra Nisbet Cansino - General Manager, Corp. Customer Relation Services, SSB
"The 1% increase as you know was differed due to all the economic repercussions of the covid pandemic and that has been deferred indefinitely to the 1st January, 2022. At this point in the time that is still the date. We have not received any further information where there would be a further delay and so that what we are looking at implementation for January 2022, barring some other change that would come probably from cabinet or from the board."
"How healthy is the country's social security fund, given that you have the entire country going through this economic downturn, so many people who lost their jobs in 2020, and then you also have those numbers of people who are getting sick and need benefits."
Chandra Nisbet Cansino
"The social security fund is recovering just like every fund, just like every other organization, just like any other industry - initially when the contribution reform was put in place, it was primarily because we needed to ensure that the fund would be sustainable. So the contribution reform was timely, may not have been popular, but it was timely, so that we are now able to sustain ourselves, meaning the social security board for a longer period of time. However, the contribution reform included the 1% and so we are again at a critical point where if we don't complete the contribution reform, because that is based on recommendations and financial projections and all of that, then we might be seeing ourselves in a position of concern."
"At this present time the fund is being sustained. We are increasing with our contributions since the economy is slowly picking back up and so at this time there is no cause for concern. The budgetary shortfall that we had in 2020 was in the amount of about 20 million dollars, which means that is what in 2019 we projected we would have collected including, because we collected a little over a hundred million, but we projected that we would have collected let's say 125 million and so the shortfall was about 20 million dollars due to the closedown of the tourism industry and all the other industries and so we are now slowly picking back up. We didn't lose the money, because it's not something that we had and we lost it, it's just what we were unable to collect that we projected in our budget to collect and so yes, this year the numbers are already much better than they were last year and so I think we are looking at a positive upturn in the sustainability of the social security fund."