The President, Parliamentarians and members of certain specified offices who have satisfied the requirement to receive pension will no longer have to wait until the stipulated age of 40 when the Pension (President, Parliamentary and Special Offices Amendment) Bill is enacted.
The Bill was successfully piloted by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, on behalf of the Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, and removes the age limit for the members to access their pension.
At present, a Member of Parliament after three years in the House qualifies to receive pension and after 12 years maximum benefits, but have to wait until they reach 40 years of age before they can access same.
With the amendments approved by the House, as long as they qualify they can start to collect pension.
Hinds and other Government speakers to the Bill said that the move was to better benefit young people.
Shadow Finance Minister Volda Lawrence in her presentation immediately chided the administration as it relates to their priorities. She emphasised that there are much more important Bills on the order paper such as the Freedom of Information and Broadcast Legislation, among others, stating that these should be addressed, rather than to call a sitting of the National Assembly just to deal with a Bill that would not be to the benefit of pensioners at large.
She said that the Prime Minister had said that Freedom of Information legislation will be tabled in the House by January and this is March, and apart from the Bill not being presented, there has been no explanation.
Lawrence also spoke of the fact that the Broadcast Bill has been six years in the making but is yet to be tabled in the House, and stressed that for the government to feel comfortable enough to convene a session of the National Assembly only to give members of the House more perks, leaves room for speculation. She also questioned the timing.
“Why now when Parliament will dissolve soon?”
The Shadow Finance Minister told the House that her party has seen the Government seeking to raise the age to receive pension for the average citizen and now goes to the National Assembly to provide “special treats” to the Parliamentarians.
She called it a disgrace to address the issue of pension for parliamentarians and not all of the pensioners in the country This, Lawrence said, is a glaring example of the priorities of the government and the contempt they have for the people of Guyana.
Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir took umbrage with Lawrence’s statements regarding the amendments as “treats.” He said that he did not expect the Bill to be such a controversial one, especially after hearing of the PNCR Presidential Candidates’ focus on youth.
According to Nadir, Lawrence was indulging in cheap politics and misinforming the House as it relates to the Government’s raising the age of pensioners to 65.
That, he said, was a recommendation coming out of a committee of the National Insurance Scheme and the recommendation was never even considered by Cabinet.
Nadir said when the PPP/C is returned with a greater majority in the parliament there will be even more youth involvement.
He opined that the 40-year age limit was a penalty on the youth and removing the age limit will act as an incentive.
The Labour Minister gave as an example the fact that in his travels around, persons often inform him that they are happy to see the strides that Social Services and Social Security Minister Priya Manickchand has made and her stellar contributions.
He said that it was commendable that as a young professional she has achieved so much and more young professionals would be welcomed.
Advisor to the President and Member of Parliament Gail Teixeira, in her presentation, told the members that they were simply removing a discriminatory section of the law and this allows for the legislators to not have to wait until 40 to start receiving their benefits.
The parliamentarian stressed that 58 per cent of the population is below 35, and as such, there is a very high probability that in the 10th Parliament there will be more youth.
According to Teixeira, there are 13 persons currently in the National Assembly under the age of 40 and without the Bill they would have had to wait years before they could collect their pensions.
Responding to the queries raised by Lawrence as it relates to the delays in the tabling of the legislation that she referred to, Teixeira said drafting a Bill is not easy and drafters were in short supply.
Teixeira insisted that the government was not just looking to do “cut and paste jobs” and that the legislation will be brought to the House.
Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Robert Corbin, said that it was an insult to the people of this nation to say that the removing of the age limit is an incentive.
He asked whatever happened to patriotism and wanting to do something good, adding that he hopes that persons don’t seek office for the perks.
Corbin also questioned why the government would feel the need to discuss that bill as a priority when there are so many important pieces of legislation to be addressed.
The Opposition Leader stressed that if the Government wanted to address the issue of pension then it should be done holistically, and address the issues affecting the masses, and not just a few.
He pointed out that the normal age to receive pension is between 55 and 60 and the pension is meagre given the way it is calculated based on the salary they were receiving when retired as against the arrangement in place for the Head of State where it is calculated based on whatever is the current salary being paid for that position.
“How could we just look after ourselves and not look after the ordinary citizens…there are serious issues affecting pensioners.”
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