BELIZE CITY, Fri. Feb. 19, 2021– The trustees for the pension scheme at the Belize Tourism Board are currently under investigation for the possible misuse of excess pension funds to offset a 25% salary cut which was approved by its board in July of 2020.
The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Anthony Mahler, has said that they believe that the trustees in charge of the pension fund acted inappropriately in their handling of excess funds, almost $400,000 — which Hon. Mahler is claiming they ultimately used to pay themselves.
Readers would recall that in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic in Belize, even before the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in the country, the Belize Tourism Board parted ways with almost 50% of its staff. Employees were given the option to resign indefinitely or until “tourism picks up”, or be paid off. This was the first shock wave in employment caused by the pandemic in Belize.
The tourism industry felt the first impact of the economic fallout when cruise and overnight tourism came to a virtual halt after cruise ships stopped arriving at our shores and the airport was closed, during the initial phase of the pandemic, to prevent the entry of the virus.
This would mean that only the “cream of the crop” would remain employed at the BTB to carry out duties necessary for the daily operation of the board as a skeleton staff. As mentioned, a 25% pay cut for all remaining staff was approved by the board in July of 2020.
This salary cut was allegedly bridged through the use of excess funds that had accrued in the board’s pension scheme for employees. According to Minister Mahler, about $350,000- $400,000 was used to offset the approved salary cut.
Minister Mahler and the new board have since initiated a full investigation into the matter — reportedly already interviewing various staff members. Reports are that they are now awaiting legal advice on the matter.
We will continue to follow this investigation.