The Association of Beneficiaries
Of Retired Public Officers
The Public Service Workers Trust
In 1995 the economy of the country was not doing well. The then government took a decision to freeze the increments of civil servants for 2 years. Ironically, whenever the country is in trouble economically, the burden of the problem is placed on the shoulders of the Public Service. There is not an extra 3% tax on the business or private community to share the burden; it is always the civil servants, i.e. government office workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, police, BDF, Coast Guard, etc., all the people who run the country, who bear the burden of the entire state. Thus the increment freeze in 1995 to 1997. However, the government had provided shares in the profitable BTL company to compensate them; and, after some 28 years, the shares have yielded some 9 million dollars. But this was placed in a trust for them to manage the funds for the benefit of the workers affected. This trust has been spending the monies on their idea of projects, and the real beneficiaries have not received anything for 27 years. Hence, they formed the ABRPO, which is now advocating for the trust to be disbanded and for the beneficiaries to receive what is rightfully theirs.
The ABPRO is adamant in its drive to have the PSWT dissolved, and rightly so, because the money gained from the shares belongs to those who had been forced to make the sacrifice of having their increments frozen for the 2 years between 1995 and 1997. The PSWT was supposed to have been managing the money for the benefit of the beneficiaries who after 27 years have received nothing. Instead, and in the meanwhile, the PSWT has been spending the money the way they please, touting that the money is solely for projects to benefit the beneficiaries. These projects are solely THEIR idea, without consulting anyone, and solely THEIR decision. They have even expressed that when a beneficiary passes on, that individual’s share is dead along with him/her. Completely ludicrous! For example, some nine teachers from the former Belize Technical College have passed, and “nada” for their next of kin. Of late, they offered to give $150.00 to beneficiaries for groceries to be purchased at Publics Supermarket and $200.00 for medical expenses.
The thing is, many of the authentic beneficiaries are not even on the list to even get those little benefits. Their solution is that such people should seek to get their name on the list. What ridiculously gross inefficiency. BEFORE any such handout, the PSWT, who has been paying themselves, should first have the list of everyone. So, what is it they have been doing over the years, when all they had to do was obtain the government staff list from the Establishment Department through the Public Service Commission, who employ public officers; and if anyone is still missing, then since government is divided into ministries, check with the appropriate ministry to get the names? How can retired individuals be getting their pension and Social Security pension and not be on the list? Instead, the PSWT has been paying themselves some $240,000.00 annually in salaries etc. to manage the monies they have been borrowing, and lending out hundreds of thousands of dollars as they see fit. When a court case is brought against them, they pay their attorney from the funds, pay themselves to travel around, and pay themselves stipends, even though they are employed elsewhere.
Take the situation of teachers from the past Belize Technical College (BTC); they along with other departments such as the Fisheries Department are not on the list. Over the life of BTC, being the first and only science and engineering institution when they started in 1952, the British principal instituted the first night-class programme to accommodate other high schools and the public that wanted a science training background to pursue careers in medicine, agriculture, engineering etc. So, from that time the teachers were the same ones who, after teaching in the day 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., went on to teach 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Therefore, these teachers have been working from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. or 12 hours a day throughout their careers. This is in addition to marking scripts and preparing lessons and labs at night. And now, these hardworking teachers, THEY are not on the list of beneficiaries. Absolutely preposterous!!!
It is heartwarming to know that the Prime Minister himself has publicly declared that he is in agreement with the ABPRO and supports them. The odd thing is that despite all this, the PSWT is fighting “tooth and nail” to hold on to (one must guess) their “cash cow”. They are the ones who have been and are benefiting from the funds and refuse to let go. What is so essential and so vital in this issue that they are holding on to so tightly “for dear life,” refusing to accept reality?
Now, the new proposed project by the PSWT is for retired people in their old age to be getting up early in the morning to dig and plant vegetables, to water them and bend their backs to weed them out and spray insects, spiders and other pests, and drive away birds and iguanas from their crops; then working in the sun to reap and sell products. So, now they must work for their increments lost. One would have thought that these old people were retired and would have their lost increments restored to them, rather than to have them doing hard labour.
The ABRPO’s message is a simple one: Dissolve the PSWT and give these retired workers the money they worked for now. People should encourage the government to give the retirees what they are entitled to.
April 11, 2023
Submitted by: A Group of Disgruntled Beneficiaries
Signed: Vernon Card