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First month for employee contributions under new SSB scheme comes calling

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Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2019. 2:08 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Today, Wednesday, is the end of month pay day for many across the country. But even before your pay is deposited in the bank or credit union, Social Security Board (SSB) wants its share – to ensure you can collect when you are not working due to sickness, injury or pregnancy, or after retirement. For those employees who get paid monthly, the first month of SSB deductions from them is being taken out of their end of month salary.

At the start of this month, a Cabinet approved proposal agreed by the Board and social partners, particularly the trade unions and business, to reform contributions over three years, came into effect. Deductions from those who get paid weekly began the first week of July, and for those who get paid 15th and ending of month, the first deductions were made from the midmonth payroll. These July 2019 deductions made from employees will then be combined with the employers contributions under the new scheme and are to be paid to the SSB by August 14.

This SSB reform seeks to increase the contribution rate from 8% to 10%, phased in over three years as well as increase the wage band ceiling from $320/week to $520/week, also phased in over three years (see table below).

Table 1. Approved Phased Increase in Contributions Rate (as %) and Wage Ceiling (2019-2021).

 

  2018 (Current) July 1,  2019 January 6, 2020 January 4, 2021
Contribution Rate 8% 8.5% 9% 10%
Wage Ceiling $320/week $440/week $480/week $520/week

 

As of July 1, the employee contributions are calculated between 88 cents (for those paid less than $70 a week) and up to $15.68 (for those paid more than $420 per week). Employers now pay between $3.80 and $21.72. On 6th January 2020, the second phase will take effect and the employee contributions will rise from 88 cents to 93 cents (for those paid less than $70 a week) and up to $18.78 (for those paid more than $420 per week). The employer contributions will also rise accordingly.

The Social Security Board (SSB) says that due to issues relating to the financial sustainability of the plan, it has little choice but to raise contributions to the scheme from employers and employees. Corresponding improvements in benefits are expected as part of a long overdue overhaul of the social security fund established 38 years ago.

Approximately 108 thousand Belizeans are registered but it was noted that the rate of retiring individuals, about 1,000 to 1,300 per year, is outpacing the rate of new contributors to the fund.

Belize’s example, said C.E.O. Dr. Colin Young, is being admired and followed by its fellows in the Caribbean, but there has been loud opprobrium at home from those feeling it is just another tax on an overburdened populace.

 

 

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