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Oct 4, 2013

A proposed Private Pensions Act creates panic amongst subscribers of utility companies

Dean Barrow

A number of Bills went before the Senate on Wednesday and were ratified. Aside from an amendment to the Criminal Code that is causing disquiet among the churches, there is the Trust Amendment Bill 2003 which makes provision for the mandatory registration of all domestic trusts. Shortly, it is to become law and in so doing, government will have access to information about the financial savings and properties held in trust by any entity holding a trust in Belize.  While the law is said to be designed to address international trust and the offshore sector from money-laundering the local trusts being now impacted say they were never consulted.  Behind the scenes, the Bar Association and other stakeholders in the offshore sector have been lobbying for some of the wide and draconian provisions be removed. But as the time nears for the bill to be assented into law, the cracks are beginning to show. But there are two draft Bills in circulation that are creating panic among subscribers of private pensions because it is felt by subscribers that it will pave the way for government to exert much more control over trust assets. In respect of the proposed Belize Private Pension Act, the upper management of Belize Telemedia held an emergency meeting to discuss how the proposed act will impact on their pension fund held in trust and subscribers threatened to remove their moneys from the pension fund. Today, the P.M. also made his rounds at BWSL and B.E.L. to appease subscribers. Late this evening the Ministry of Finance sent out a release saying that it will be exempting the utility companies from the Act. The idea of the proposed laws, according to Prime Minister Barrow, is to standardize pension schemes being offered to workers because insurance companies are offering similar annuities.



Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I had a call from some of the union leaders on Wednesday and I thought I had put their fears to rest but it turns out that yesterday I was told that members of staff of B.T.L. who contribute to the B.T.L. Pension Fund were panicking and were saying they wanted to withdraw their monies from the fund which could’ve caused the fund to collapse in consequence of their fear of the unknown, their fear of what it is that the legislation might ultimately contain and it seems they were made to believe that passage of this legislation is imminent, which is, as I said, the farthest thing from the truth.  Because of the danger to the scheme that was created by this indication, this declaration on the part of the people that they would withdraw from the scheme I thought it necessary to go there and explain precisely what is true and what isn’t true and I ended up telling them that while, even in draft, the legislation provides for their scheme to be exempt.  It does not say that without a doubt your scheme will be exempt.  How could it, it’s not reached that stage.  But I gave them my assurance that unless they would want whatever bill emerges to apply to them they would be exempt and I think they made clear that while they appreciated that the objective is to try to offer additional layers of protection they are perfectly happy with the way their own scheme is working and so I have committed to them that they will be exempted.  I came here to BWS where, I don’t think the level of panic was the same but I figured since I had gone to talk to B.T.L. let me as well talk to BWS and I have told them precisely the same thing.”

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