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Another indirect casualty of a terrible drugs war

EditorialAnother indirect casualty of a terrible drugs war

The country is in shock, a town is angry, and a family is shattered after a youth was shot to death, killed by a bullet that it is believed came from the barrel of a police officer’s gun. In 2019 it was Allyson Major, in 2021 it was Laddie Gillett, and in 2023 it is Dyandre Chee. Sadly, it will happen again. It will happen again because many police officers in Belize carry guns, the tools of hunting and war.

Few officers in the UK carry guns, while in the US many police officers are heavily armed. The podcast, Takeaway, which can be found at the website wnycstudios.org, noted in the story “Policing Without Guns: How British Officers Keep the Peace” that in the three years – 2013/14/15 – “just three people died at the hands of law enforcement in Britain—in 2012 alone, 409 Americans were killed by police shootings, according to data compiled by the FBI.” Compare the UK with Belize. Three police killings in the UK between 2013 and 2015, and three in Belize between 2019 and 2023. The UK has 67 million people. Belize’s population is less than 450,000.

In the old Belize, police officers carried batons, and whips, but today, because of a terrible drugs war, they carry guns. Years ago the power structure in the US decided that the best way to control the use of mind-altering drugs was to make them illegal. Never mind that they used the same methods for alcoholic beverages, and it was a total disaster. Many young men involved in the lucrative drugs trade die in the direct line of fire. And young men and children who are not in the drugs trade die in the crossfire of drug dealers, and because our police officers are armed.

There is a charge that the police involved in the tragic death of Dyandre Chee were drunk. The police have claimed they were fired on. The youth who survived said they didn’t fire on the police. They said what the police said was gunfire was actually backfiring from the exhaust of one of the motorbikes they were on. If the police officers were fired on (felt they were fired on), they would have become extremely angry. But police officers know they will be held accountable for their actions, and anger will not be accepted as an excuse if they act dangerously.

The Commissioner of Police has said that they have improved the training of officers, and a number of new protocols/measures have been put in place to prevent tragedies like what took place in Orange Walk Town on Saturday night. As the Commissioner said, the department isn’t perfect. The fact is that no amount of training will stop incidents like these because it’s only under pressure that people find out who they really are. When imperfect officers get caught in similar situations, there will be another death, another grieving family and a shocked nation.

These tragedies will stop when police officers stop carrying guns routinely. Unfortunately, police officers’ guns won’t be replaced with batons until there is a change in the approach to control drugs.

Our social security scheme

Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño recently announced that his government would be pushing within the public structure for pension reform and upping the retirement age. KREM News said Social Security Board (SSB) CEO, Mrs. Deborah Ruiz said she supported increasing the retirement age from 55 to 65, because it would delay the payout time.

Our social security scheme, administered by the SSB is, as the name says, about the security of our people. Prior to the introduction of the scheme, in 1981, workers/employees had little protection during their working years, and nothing to fall back on in their retirement years if they didn’t have the good fortune of a pension scheme at their place of employ, or the generosity of whom they had worked for.

There are kind employers who can afford to be generous, and are. But our economic system, capitalism, is not about generosity, it’s about profit. Capitalism is as Leroy Grant, in his book, The Life of Robert Sydney Turton, said Turton explained to George Price. After Price (the employee) discussed “the 1931 Encyclical, likely Quadragesimo Anno” with Turton (his employer), he challenged Turton about his workers and living wages. Turton told Price: “Jorge, the Pope doesn’t know a s— about business!”

Even in cases where private employers were benevolent, there was no guarantee for employees that they’d be “taken care of” because private employers, unlike governments, are not certain to stay in business.

The contribution rate to the social security scheme is 10% of earnings, and the employer’s contribution ranges from 8.13% for employees who earn less than $70 per week, to 5.5% for those earning more than $500 per week. Few employers, if any, would contribute if they weren’t instructed by law to do so. We have seen the government literally have to force through a minimum wage increase.

Looking at some numbers, a person earning between $140 and $179.99 per week pays $3.94 weekly into the scheme, and their employer pays $12.06 weekly. Over a year the employee will pay $204.88 and the employer $627.12. Over a 35-year period the individual will pay $7,170.80 into the scheme, while the employer contributes $21,949.20. The total contributions for an individual in this bracket amounts to $29,120. Computing with the Excel finance function, if interest accrued at the rate of 2% to the weekly payments, and nothing was drawn from the account, at the end of 35 years the employee would have a tidy $41,595 nest egg in the bank.

On retirement the individual in this bracket can get up to $4,992 per year, and that would last about 8 years. However, accruing a nest egg of $41,595 would only be possible if over the 35 working years nothing was drawn from the account to pay for healthcare.

The 2019 SSB Annual Report says contributions that year amounted to $100,180,515. That year the SSB paid out $81,099,490 in benefits. Employment injury benefits amounted to $5,544,957; sickness, maternity allowance and grants amounted to $15,566, 629; and retirement, survivors’ invalidity, funeral grants, and non-contributory benefits amounted to $59,987, 913. In 2019 SSB paid for 306,411 sick days; 40,979 injury days; 7,034 retirement pensions; 1,859 survivors’ pensions; and 505 invalidity pensions.

Still, there are employees/former employees who see the scheme as a scam. When employees complain about paying social security they are singing off their employers’ song sheet. Some worry that they won’t enjoy social security retirement benefits for too long, because they won’t be blessed with longevity. That’s worrying about the wrong thing. If there’s a worry it should be about living long years and not having sufficient savings.

The SSB has to invest its funds, even more so today than a couple decades ago because ever since the National Bank was established, for the primary purpose of driving down mortgage rates, interest payments on fixed deposits at the commercial banks have decreased significantly. The SSB got tarnished because of suspect investments by the PUP in its 1998 -2003 government. Bad loans to PUP cronies would be the beginning of the fall from grace of that government. The 2003-2008 PUP government was forced to make changes in the management structure of the SSB. Today, loans given out by the SSB have to be published, by law.

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