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Social Security Board addresses proposed loan to Hol Chan Marine Reserve for sargassum barriers

Posted: Monday, March 27, 2023. 11:40 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The managers of one of Belize’s oldest and most recognized protected areas, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve off southern Ambergris Caye, have proposed to borrow $3.5 million from the Social Security Board.

As described by Social Security CEO Deborah Ruiz, the purpose of the project is to build barriers to floating sargassum which coats the shoreline and ruins the physical and aesthetic value of an Ambergris vacation.

But considering how SSB has been burned by projects that did not provide value for workers’ money, Ruiz explained how the Board is so far satisfied that the Reserve can repay: “… we crunched the numbers, repayability is there, they have the collateral, they did have an issue in terms of [their] recent past but those numbers and internal controls have been put in place to our satisfaction that we feel it’s a reasonable investment to make and it certainly was higher than what we would get if we leave our money in the bank. 6.75 percent, I believe, is the rate that was agreed.”

Ruiz further argues that the Board is finding it a “challenge” to seek new investments due to inflation and made a call to those with ideas to come forward: “…we’re very liquid, unfortunately, I must say, because we need viable investment. We have over a hundred million to invest, so we’re seriously looking for projects and trying to see how we can make this money work better for us. Sitting in the bank earning two and a half percent is not doing us any good. So we need to invest that money in order to turn it around, and that is where we are falling short. We need to invest money to get bigger returns because if we get two and a half percent and we have inflation, it negates everything. You’re basically ending up with zero and in order to not go back to the Belizean people for a rate increase. We need to put the investments to work so people out there who have viable projects, please talk to us and see how we can work together to grow the economy of Belize by investing in saving projects.”

Those who have comments on the proposed loan may contact the Board.


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