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Aug 26, 2004

Unions vent anger at Social Security

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As the press continues to sink its teeth into Social Security saga, this morning the list of civil society organisations to weigh in with their concerns and suggestions expanded to include the National Trade Union Congress of Belize. Complete with representatives from the Belize Energy Workers Union, the Christian Workers Union, the Belize Communication Workers Union, the Belize National Teachers Union, Public Service Union, and the Belize Water Services Union, the NTUCB outlined their position, in which they demanded an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Said Musa and of course, full disclosure and enquiry.

George Frazier, General Secretary, BNTU

“A whole lot of games have been going on, cost of living, new taxes are being added on, some of them in very shuttle ways. So we need to stand up and let our position be heard and so this morning that is what we are about.”

Horace Patton, President, Belize Workers Union

“We will investigate thoroughly what transpired within the Social Security Board before our tenure because most of these things that were happening was before we were members of the board. And what we did then was immediately contact Ms. Garcia and we asked for certain information. We asked for the information of all loans that were given out by the board. We asked for all functioning loans, the loans that are not functioning and we want to know all the securitization done by Social Security because this we had no knowledge of. So we didn’t need to know before we could have even come out and make a statement as to what–the board–or how we see. And the reason for this simply is that we though and we still believe that tomorrow something else might pop up if there is not full disclosure of what happens within the Social Security. So if something else pop up tomorrow the press will continue to say that the union is not saying anything and all this thing is happening. So we are saying that we the proper information before we would come before you and divulge any information. We have contacted Ms. Garcia as I was saying and up to this time, no information has reached us.”

Dylan Reneau, Public Service Union

“From the little information provided Social Security Board is paying the lion’s share for securitization programme. Because of the securitization programme, SSB will be paying some one point three million dollars monthly until 2010 and half that amount after 2010 until 2013. The picture connotes that SSB has been recording a net loss of four to five percent since 1999 on the investment portfolio covered by this securitization programme, which amounts to currently ninety-eight point nine million dollars that have been securitized. The lost that I am talking about is evidence in the 2002 report and I think it will show even more in the 2003 audited report when it becomes available. Under the accounting notes 2-I and 10, despite the availability of fresh funds from securitization programme and monthly loan repayments to DFC by home owners, the DFC has not paid any of its loan commitments to SSB since 2003 further worsening the position at the SSB. The public service union remains concerned about the acts held over pay ready to fall in the form as the National Health Insurance. The National Health Insurance scheme is another leach on the SSB funds. The actuary note in the last actuarial review report and I quote him, “Hence in the biannual 2001/2002 the short term branch reserves have been debited for nine million dollars and further charges continue in 2003.” The branch has also been deprived of investment income that would have accrued from these funds and the liquidity situation of the SSB has been constrained further. In the absence of these charges, the branch reserved would have increased to thirty-seven point six million dollars disregarding additional interest income, but instead have declined to twenty-eight point two million dollars as of thirty-first of December 2002. Based on the expected trends, it is recommended to phase out national health insurance charges to the SSB as from June 2004.”

Anthony Fuentes, Belize National Teachers Union

“Another major concern to us as a union is a statement made by the Financial Secretary, Mr. Hugh McSweeney of the Central Bank on the state of the economic on Monday August sixteenth 2004. It states that the international monetary fund, which they refer to a term, immediate front loading–which means wage freeze and retrenchment–indicates that there will be no wage freeze, but that there will be no raise. We are all aware that Government of Belize signed a three year increase agreement for teachers and public officers. We have received two salary increases. The third salary increase is due in 2005. We are concerned whether next year we will be getting our increase. We are also concerned that the hard earn monies, we the workers are paying every week to Social Security. It should be safe, secured, and properly managed and available to pay our various benefits and pension when these are due. As a young and growing nation, the Belizean population is living in an interesting and challenging time. These two international reputed credit agencies have downgraded Belize’s credit rating. This spell disaster for us, as soon we are to become twenty-three year old downgrading is an indictment on investor confidence.”

Rene Gomez, Senator

“We believe as the Senate, the maximum governing authority more than commission of enquiring, have the power and the authority to exercise such a venture as to prove into the accounts, not only Social Security, but even to those who have been lent the money, for them to open up their accounts and to see what they have done with the workers’ monies and even the private sector monies because we are the only contributors. And then the government of the day have their way by just manipulating their way as to how they are going to disperse of these funds. So have we have the legal authority and the support mechanism to carry out this exercise to probe into these finances lent out from the Social Security Board.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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