General — 28 January 2017 — by Adele Ramos
Increase in Social Security contributions under review

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 26, 2017–The schedule of Social Security payments is undergoing a review which will likely see workers—and in particular those in higher income brackets—pay more in contributions but, according to the Social Security Board, the change would also enable the SSB to increase payments to workers and pensioners.

In an interview with Amandala last February, chairman of the Social Security Board (SSB), Doug Singh, had said that there were plans for consultations on proposals to increase the wage bands, and also to raise the ceiling of insurable earnings from $320 weekly to about $500 weekly. At the time, the first 5% increase in pension payments was in-train, and another 5% had been pledged for 2017.

Singh told us today that there has been no increase in Social Security contributions since 2001, and the SSB’s actuary, Hernando Montas, has said that in order for the fund to maintain equilibrium, that adjustments are needed. He said that the actuary does not recommend another increase in pension payments until the necessary adjustments are made; but added that an equitable framework will be worked out through national consultation.

Consultations on the proposals are being undertaken this month. Those consultations are being led by Chandra Nisbet Cansino, general manager – policy and programs at the SSB. She told Amandala that the consultations are necessary since the proposed changes could affect workers’ salaries as well as the wage bill.

As the proposals now stand, though, the changes would primarily impact on persons currently earning more than the ceiling of insurable earnings, which now stands at $320 a week. The proposal as it now stands, Cansino said, is to increase it to $500 or $600. An increase in the floor, currently at $55 a week, is also being looked at since it needs to be changed to reflect an increase in the minimum wage.

The bottom line is, though, that higher income earners will be asked to pay more. Cansino told us that although this is the case, the proposals also call for them to receive higher benefits.
The change, she said, should particularly be notable for pensioners, who are living longer. The changes are proposed to ensure the sustainability of the fund, Cansino elaborated.

Organizations representing workers and employers—the trade unions, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau—are also being consulted as a part of the process, Cansino said.

Indications are that the changes are due to take effect in 2018, Cansino told us.

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