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Social Security Board calling again for contributions to scheme

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Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2019. 8:12 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Payday is coming for many across the country in the next few days. But the first paycheck of the New Year will see another bite taken out.

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.

Earlier this year, Cabinet approved a proposal agreed by the Board and social partners, particularly the trade unions and business community, to reform contributions over three years. This 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. Approved Phased increase in Contribution Rate 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

The Board says that due to financial issues, 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.
As of January 6, total contributions will be calculated between 93 cents (for those paid less than $70 a week) and $18.78 (for those paid more than $480 per week). Employers now pay between $4.02 and $24.42. The next such increase kicks in at the start of 2021, and there are warnings of more to be expected down the line.

Short-term weekly benefits for sickness, maternity and employment injury go up to between $44 and $384; pensions will range from $47 to $288 per week. The maximum annual benefit will now range from between $2,444 and $14,976; presumably, income taxes and so on are not deducted.

Approximately 108 thousand Belizeans are registered with Social Security, but the authorities say 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 now-departed C.E.O. Dr. Colin Young, is being admired and followed by its fellows in the Caribbean, but there is loud opprobrium at home from those feeling it is just another tax on an overburdened populace.

 

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