By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter
Ensuring financial security for Belize’s elderly is an area of immediate priority for the National Council on Aging’s National Strategic Plan for Older Persons 2015-2019.
The strategy, launched on International Day of Older Persons-October 1, identifies short, medium and long term targets geared towards improving the financial status of Belize’s elderly, including advocacy for a sustainable national pension program.
The NCA’s indicators for this goal include: establishing an advocacy group for the creation of Non-Contributory Pension scheme, defining criteria for its creation (inflation, cost of living, poverty rate, age, gender) by the end of 2015, and holding discussions with the private sector on older persons’ issues and funding for a universal pension scheme.
The NCA also aims to increase awareness for the younger, self-employed population to contribute to Social Security by 2016, and to create the NCP by 2017.
IxChel Poot, program officer at the NCA, said at the launch, that the initiative will require significant dialogue with and support from all stakeholders to become a reality.
“We do believe that there is a need for a bigger discussion, especially on an issue such as pension”, Poot said. “If you look at our documentary that we launched last year, 61 percent of our population 60 and older don’t have a pension.”
She added that as a part of the strategic plan, the NCA will increase stakeholder engagement in all aspects affecting the well-being of Belize’s elderly.
According to a “Situation of Older Persons “survey done by the NCA, 75.5 percent of the older persons interviewed stated they considered themselves poor and income is insufficient to meet their daily needs.
The survey also showed that 63.6 percent of the older people interviewed did not receive a pension or any form of benefit; 84.3 percent received no income from employment.