It's been around since 1981, collecting contributions from the working class and returning it to them as sickness or retirement benefits. Now the Social Security Board has transitioned from manual records-keeping to a modern, digital database that provides information and answers with the click of a button online. But as the organization adapts to the changing times, it must also be financially viable to be able to pay its growing number of pensioners when they reach their twilight years. But with contributions between employer and employer now at ten percent, that discussion is still some years away. Today, S.S.B. presented its latest figures. News Five's Marion Ali was there and filed the following report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

With an initial grant of less that fifty-four thousand dollars and an interest-free loan of a hundred and fourteen thousand more, the Social Security Board began operating just over four decades ago, looking after the financial needs of almost thirty thousand insured persons. By the end of 2021, however, that number had ballooned to over a hundred and seven thousand. Prime Minister John Brice�o hastened to point out that this number still only represents only sixty-six percent of the total labour force and urged the uninsured to join the scheme in order that they could receive their benefits in times of need.

Prime Minister John Brice�o

"This means that about fifty-four thousand people do not have social security coverage. To these persons, I say get yourselves registered, make your contributions, for this is the only way you can reap the benefits of you social security system in the long term."

Currently, there are over fourteen thousand persons on a social security pension - a number that keeps growing because of the number of persons that retire each year, coupled with the extended lifespan that people are now enjoying. This is the reason given for the need to invest Social Security monies so that they can earn interest to spread across pensioners in the future. The monies we contribute to the fund, the calculations show, will not be sufficient to care for us in retirement.

In his financial review, S.S.B.'s General Manager of Corporate Services, Leo Vasquez shared that of every dollar that contributors pay in, seventy-two cents go towards our pension, nineteen cents go towards sick benefits, and nine cents go towards employment injury benefits. Using an example, he explained that we get back all the monies we pay in to social security over the years in just a couple years of pension.

Leo Vasquez, General Manager, Corporate Services

"Someone who's at the five hundred per week, five twenty at ten percent is fifty-two. That's employer and employee, for which as you know the employer does fifty-five percent and the employee at forty-five, but together it's fifty-two dollars per week. Twenty-seven o four is your annual contribution to the fund. We then took that as an example for ten years - twenty seven thousand o forty. All of that money that you have put in for those ten years comes back to you in two years, four months and that will work for every wage band at that base rate."

With the math having been explained, S.S.B. says it finds the need to invest the monies in order to be able to earn profits that would enable the organization to pay out a growing number of pensioners who are now living longer years after retirement. This is something that S.S.B.'s Actuary, Hernando Montas, explained afterwards to us

Hernando Montas, Actuary, S.S.B.

"Sheer contributions are not enough to finance pensions. The other sorts of income are from investments to the portfolio."

And to keep the scheme current, S.S.B. will have to hold consultations again on increases in the contributions we pay in. But, Montas assured those discussions are a few years down the road.

Hernando Montas

"This is the same thing that happens in the United States and the U.K. Look at the United States in relation. Periodically they increase the ceiling and the contribution rates. So the situation in Belize will have to follow the same path. So every ten years, more or less, increases in contributions will be required. To get sixty percent, which is the I.L.O. international rate to allow you to keep the same standard to living, you need to pay more than ten percent contribution to social security, but we are doing it, and in all the CARICOM countries, in gradual steps."

Another consideration when this discussion comes up is the proposal to extend the retirement ages, which currently stand at sixty for voluntary retirement and sixty-five for mandatory retirement. Marion Ali for News Five.


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