BELIZE CITY, Mon. Oct. 5, 2020– In the course of an ongoing debate concerning amendments to the Defence Act, members of the Opposition have highlighted a number of issues affecting soldiers of the Belize Defence Force.
Many in the public had not known, for example, until the debate among our legislators, that BDF soldiers are still prevented from being a part of the Social Security scheme.
According to the CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Felix Enriquez, an antiquated provision in the Social Security Act bars military officials from being accepted as contributors/beneficiaries of the scheme.
In an interview with local media, Enriquez said, “There is a section that refers to military persons or persons engaged in military service that are just not qualified to be a part of the Social Security.”
According to Enriquez, these provisions have long been removed from legislation in the UK and some Caribbean countries. He said that Belize is no longer at risk of engaging in a military conflict that would result in mass casualties, and pointed out that soldiers are generally healthier than civilians, since they must engage in physical tests in order to qualify for their yearly increment.
Unless the provision in the Act changes, the exclusion of BDF soldiers will continue to occur, according to CEO Enriquez. He said that as recently as March of this year, requests were made, including by the Ombudsman, to lobby for soldiers to be able to get access to SSB’s scheme so that SSB benefits can be included in their pension package.
The Ministry hopes that this is looked at, but CEO Enriquez has confirmed that there is some reluctance on the part of SSB.
As it stands, soldiers of the Belize Defence Force, unlike other government employees, do not benefit from maternity leave, sick leave, disability or any other benefit given to those who make Social Security contributions.