PUP’s SSB deception unmasked Print E-mail
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Friday, 21 June 2019 00:00

The People’s United Party sent out a release earlier this week in which it states that the Chief Executive Officer, for the Social Security Board, Dr. Colin Young, was playing politics with the new rate increase that will be implemented next month. The PUP quoted from a document that was presented to Cabinet by Dr. Young, entitled, “How the UDP can Leverage SSB’s Sustainability to Gain Political Advantage.” The PUP was extremely selective in quoting from the document. In its release it says that, “Young actually goes so far as to provide detailed steps on how the UDP can fool the Belizean people into thinking that the move to increase contributions is a good thing, compared to the fallout if the entity should collapse. Young is convinced that with sufficient spin, the Barrow administration can turn the Social Security debacle into a ‘win for the UDP.’”

Responding to the allegations, the Chairman of the Board, Douglas Singh and CEO, Dr. Colin Young held a press conference on Tuesday to dispel the mis-information by the PUP. The Chairman explained that

“This wasn’t easy... In our initial meeting with the Government of Belize, we got clear indication that they were not prepared to make an adjustment… Governments are never willing to make these kinds of adjustments that results in increased contributions by employers and employees.”

Because of this reaction, the board took the decision to task the CEO to convince the Cabinet that the increase was absolutely necessary. With that, a Cabinet paper was drafted and that was what the PUP used to weave their tale of deception.

Singh says that, “The CEO in his wisdom, and with the support of the Board, wrote to the Prime Minister…[He] tried to make the point to the Government that it is prudent for you to do this, notwithstanding the fact that there can be political outfall for it. So, contrary to the statement made in the PUP Press release, that in fact, that you’re showing where there are political advantages that can be reached from this. There is no advantage. Really, what the CEO pointed out is that you can mitigate the political fallout damage as a result of making these kinds of decisions. And he clearly pointed it out to the Government in an effort to convince the Government to do the right thing.”

Young echoed the sentiment and noted that, “I had a hard time convincing the Prime Minister about this issue. In fact, the political decision would have been to not do anything, and let it pass on to some subsequent administration, as has been the case, and instead, I made the point - and if you look at the document that was sent - that SSB is far too important, far too big, and has too many beneficiaries for this to be a political decision only. It had to be also one that was in the best interest of the fund… I pointed out to the Prime Minister that yes, you will have some impacts of this, but the right thing to do, despite the political fall-out that will come from it, is to do what it will take to safeguard SSB. That is what occurred. There was no sinister motive here. Too often, I have seen, in my capacity as CEO, in the Government of Belize, where sometimes decisions are not made because of the political calculus. In this case, I am pleased that I was able to convince the Government to do what is absolutely necessary to safeguard the fund.”

While the explanation is simple enough, what the PUP did was to take the entire presentation out of context and in fact, it ignored a major part that was presented; that in fact if anyone is to be on the losing side of any SSB argument, it would be the PUP.

The paper makes it clear that “it is undeniable that consecutive PUP administrations have had pronounced negative impact on the Fund’s financial sustainability. These abuses of contributors’ money by the PUP catalogued in the Social Security Reform Commission report (2002) and the Report of the Special Senate Inquiry of SSB (2004). These infamous legacy investments, including the mortgage securitization programs still, to this day, hurt the image, reputation and sustainability of SSB. SSB incurred almost 8 Million dollars loss from securitization programs.” The paper continues to state that, “Passing the legal amendments now, 18 months prior to elections, will negate the PUP’s attempt to use the social security financial situation as a campaign tactic to win support. If the PUP is successful in their fear-mongering, it can have significant political implications for the UDP leading up to the 2020 elections. Moreover, the UDP can steer the political discourse on the amendments to remind the Belizean populace of the PUP’s recklessness with SSB. The UDP can leverage the increase in contributions as a win for workers, a win for SSB and a win for the UDP, while using the opportunity to remind young electors of why the PUP is not an option in 2020.”

During the press conference, Singh reiterated that “all the losses that were made as a result of bad investment happened under their administration. So, they do not have the moral conviction to be making these kinds of statements… We also offered advice to the People’s United Party. Just about a year ago, we met the executive of the People’s United Party, including the Party Leader, the Hon. John Briceno, at their office at Charter House on the Philip Goldson Highway. And we did the same presentation to advise them of the level of where SSB was, of the investments, of the future risk that existed, and the need for the adjustment. I pointed out to the team that if in fact, the Government makes the decision not to implement this, because there’s a huge outcry against this, and that the Opposition is making a lot of noise, that it compounds the problem, because in elections of 2020, at the time of elections of 2020, the situation would have been worsened. And the bitter pill would have been a larger bitter pill. And if the PUP is successful at taking Government at that time, it will be their responsibility to make these kind of adjustments… If they were wise - and this is what I said to them - you would not make too much noise about this because this could end up being your harness, your yoke to bear. Now, maybe because of where it was coming from, they chose not to take the advice, and it is unfortunate because I also said to them that of all the parties that have something to lose in making this kinda noise, it is the People’s United Party.”