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Jun 2, 1999

Social Security holds reform symposium

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Did you know that if you retired right now all you would get from Social Security is 35 dollars a week? If you think that is out of step with the times, you’re not alone. This week the Social Security Board is asking the public, even those not receiving any benefits right now, to recommend some changes that will help us all down the road. Today News Five was at the Belize Institute of Management for a public symposium on retirement benefits and a lot more.

Eighteen years ago the Belize Social Security Board was established on June first, 1981. Today the institution is looking seriously at its schemes and plans to see if they are appropriate for the challenges of the Twenty First century.

Narda Garcia, General Manager, Belize Social Security Board

“Today the Social Security scheme is stigmatized as one that offers very little benefits and due to that contributions are perceive as a tax and labor.”

Garcia says the board has recognized that there is a need to redefine the role of the Social Security and embarked on a nationwide series of consultations where the general public is invited to give their views, opinions and suggestions on the issue.

Narda Garcia

“The difference with this consultation or symposium that we are having around the country is that there seems to be more of a political commitment, a political will from the board and the government to actually make these changes now.”

The symposium, Social Security Reform: A challenge for the New Millennium was held in Belize City today at the Belize Institute of management. Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development said the government supports the effort and joins in the process of people’s participation.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development

“This reform process is timely and these consultations show that the government is keeping its contract to the people. It shows that government is realizing its manifesto promise to improve and expand the Social Security system. It is your reflection, your analysis, your proposals that will shape the direction for Social Security into the future.”

Presentations were made by representatives of organizations and unions about areas that need to be improved. There was considerable criticism of the pension scheme. Currently retirees only receive a weekly pension of thirty-five dollars.

Fred Hunter, Belize Business Bureau

“One cannot expect a person today to live his last years in dignity or comfort on the money he or she receives from the Social Security program.”

Randolph Johnson, National Trade Union Congress of Belize

“Injury benefits need to be revised and coverage needs to be expanded to cover holidays and vacations including accidents.”

John Pinelo, Belize National Teachers Union

“Full coverage of teachers twenty four hours a day, seven days a week right through the year. That is a very important one. Not the way things are presently, that teachers are covered only during normal working hours; they are not covered during the holidays.”

Other areas that were discussed at length included the maternity and survivors benefits. While it will be some time before any major changes are made, Garcia did have some good news about a significant medical benefit that will be implemented at the close of 1999.

Narda Garcia

“Coming at the end of the year we will be allowing the insured persons in the employment injured branch to access medical services from their private physician. Like I said this will be an indication that we are serious to reform the scheme.”

The Social Security symposium will be held in San Ignacio Town on Thursday.

The general public is invited to attend any of the countrywide meetings or to write to the Social Security Board with suggestions for reform.

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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