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Jul 30, 2003

1st pension cheques issued to needy women

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It was a key plank in the P.U.P.’s successful electoral platform…and while the reality may have fallen slightly short of the campaign promise, today’s delivery of pension cheques marked one of the first concrete fulfilments of the ruling party’s manifesto. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods reports.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Since it was announced that women sixty-five years and older, and who do not have any source of income, will be receiving a monthly pension of seventy-five dollars from the Social Security Board, the S.S.B. has been receiving applications from across the country. So far, a total of one thousand, five hundred and seventy applications have been approved and today the first cheques were handed over to the recipients.

Jessie Downs, Pension Recipient

“It’s very small, but it’s the first time that we Golden Citizens have gotten something like this. I am proud.”

Prime Minister Said Musa says the small token is a sign of appreciation for all the hard work that the women have done most of their lives.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Taking care of the home and taking care of the family is work. It’s one of the most noble works that human kind has carried out over the ages, to raise a family. For that is the foundation of the nation, the family is the foundation and you are the ones, you the mothers of Belize are the main ones, who have brought the families to where they are today.”

Musa says they have not forgotten about the men, but the government had to start somewhere and they decided it was best to initiate the scheme with the country’s foundation, its women. According to Musa, since Belize gained independence in 1981 steps have been taken to improve the system.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“We have a new Social Security Board now and it involves the labour movement as well as the business community. We want to ensure that the Social Security continues to carry out its mandate, which is to provide a social safety net for our people. The main goal of social security is to provide that net, that when somebody falls they don’t fall to the ground, somebody is there to pick you up, to help out, whether you get sick, whether we all get old and all of us have to get old or whatever infirmities we might suffer, we need that safety net that is an essential part of a developing and a strong nation.”

The new pensioners took home a total of two hundred and twenty-five dollars because the monthly payment of seventy-five dollars was retroactive to April first 2003. Presently, two hundred and eighty-three applications that were either sent incomplete or late, are still being processed. If approved, those recipients will also be receiving their cheques.

We asked the board’s General Manager, Narda Garcia, who exactly qualifies for the non-contributory pension scheme.

Narda Garcia, General Manager, S.S.B.

“The criteria is that you have to be sixty-five years or older, you have to be registered with the Social Security and you have to have no source of income or inadequate source of income, meaning that if you’re already receiving a pension then you don’t qualify, either if it is from government or Social Security. And then again, the committee looks at the application and determines that inadequate source of income if you are in fact receiving one.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What happens in the case if you have a woman who has not been working all her life, but yet she has been receiving assistance from her family?”

Narda Garcia

“That is looked at on a case to case basis by the committee, and that is why we took it out of the hands of Social Security and we involved the Council of Churches, Helpage, the Ministry of Human Development, who will determine what is an adequate source of income. Probably the person is receiving a little help, but it’s not adequate enough for her…probably she is a sick lady and needs to buy medication that’s expensive. So this person then would probably qualify under the criteria that the committee has set. “

Yasin Shoman, Chairman, S.S.B.

“Since taking office in 1998, the previous Social Security Board members has striven to offer to you, our beautiful Belizeans, more and more for your contributions. Increased and more realistic benefits, a National Health Insurance programme, which although still in the pilot project stage, will soon be rolled out to the entire country, and today, assistance to our senior citizens.”

An assistance that seventy-four year old Grace Orosco thought she would never have received.

Grace Orosco, Pension Recipient

“I feel very, very happy about it. I will be seventy-five the ninth of September and this is the first time such thing every happen in Belize. And it is something very great; first time.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So you will look forward now to picking up your cheque every month.”

Grace Orosco

“Definitely. My seventy-five will be like seventy-five hundred…I thankful for it.”

The Social Security Board disbursed a total of three hundred and fifty-three thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

Prospective pensioners should get moving on their applications as a cut-off date will soon be announced after which payments will no longer be retroactive.

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