Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2019. 6:55 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Social Security is regarded as the safety net for Belizeans in time of need, whether through sickness, pregnancy, injury or even death.
But recently, in the eyes of some, the Board has too readily made “workers’ money” available to prop up various government interests.
However, the Social Security Board’s own figures put the loss from all its “bad investments” over the last two decades at just 8.3 million dollars.
The portfolio is currently 429 million dollars, and SSB got back $23 million in dividends per its last financial report in 2017 (the 2018 one is coming due).
As for the perception of poor investment, “Generally what happens is we’ve found based on the consultation that we had that a lot of the bad investments that are attributed to SSB are not in fact SSB’s investments and the amount of money people thought the SSB lost over the last twenty years is a lot less than what they think. But part again is the public relations,” C.E.O. Dr. Colin Young explained at Tuesday’s public forum. He added that the Board does not expect to recover every single dollar it has invested, of the hundreds of millions over 20 years.
S.S.B. funds have been paid out to, among others, the National Bank; shares in Belize Telemedia Limited, Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Water Services Limited; Belize Airports Authority, Development Finance Corporation and the Belize City Council’s municipal bond project started under Mayor Darrell Bradley.
In 2017, the Opposition People’s United Party estimated, according to leader John Briceño, that more than eighty percent of the S.S.B. investment portfolio is held in these Government interests.
Dr. Young pointed to some reforms, including increased participation of the social partners such as trade unions and the business community.
The P.U.P. at the time had proposed some of its own reforms, including reducing expenses for management and diversifying into more projects in the productive sector, such as the current citrus deal.
Leader Briceño told this reporter at the time: “One of the first things we need to look at is overexposure by Government – that there has to be enough checks and balances to deter the Government to use Social Security as their piggybank – their piñata, as what we see has happened under the U.D.P. government since 2008, so that is one of the first things that we have to do. …there is talk that maybe Social Security should take a more active participation in providing health care services for the workers.”
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