Let’s treat our pensioners with respect and dignity!

A 72-year-old pensioner, using a walking stick, once walked to a bank in Accra which was quite a distance from his house in an anticipation of withdrawing his meagre pension allowance.  The old man was acting on a payment scheduled calendar prepared by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) on the monthly pension allowance to beneficiaries of the National Pension Scheme.

Looking tired, weak and frail, the fairly old man got to the bank only to be told that SSNIT had not forwarded the monthly pension to the bank to enable them to authorize payment of his allowance and, therefore, he could not withdraw his money.  Visibly confused and dejected, the man nearly collapsed.  Just imagine the terrible and harrowing condition in which the old man found himself in at that particular moment.He was disappointed and disturbed, especially in a situation where he had to walk a long distance to the bank.  But for some good Samaritans at the banking hall who mobilised some funds to give to the old man, the situation would have been dangerous and the worse could have happened.

DELAYS IN PAYMENT OF PENSIONS

There are other negative instances across the country in which SSNIT, managers of the Pension Scheme, has not lived up to expectation and delayed in the payment of pension to beneficiaries and has failed to communicate or explained to them the reason behind the delay in sending their money to the various banks and as a result some of these old men were placed in a very tight corner because for some of them, their monthly pension allowance has been their only source of revenue for their livelihood since they don’t have any dependants to fall on in times of financial difficulties. In very few occasions, messages are sent on mobile phones in an anticipation that beneficiaries will read and be informed about further delay in the processing of entitlements, but not everyone owns some of these android phones, more so, how many of such old men can access, use or manipulate these phones?

A typical example of the delay in payment of the pension was in the month of February where it delayed for a couple of days.  Per the payment calendar issued by SSNIT at the beginning of the year, the pension is paid and routed to the various banks every third Thursday of each month.  This arrangement has been duly communicated to the beneficiaries and, therefore, they are aware of the date and have obviously, budgeted for the money.  It is that prior notice, that inspires and entices the beneficiaries to go to their respective banks to withdraw their entitlements.  If payments are not made at the stipulated date and no communication or proper explanation is given by SSNIT, it disorganises and dampens their spirit.  One would expect SSNIT to use the mass media especially, the electronic and print to communicate to them about the change of date and the reason behind it to alleviate any potential problems and sufferings by beneficiaries not to keep them in the dark.

SSNIT MUST SIT UP AND SHOW ADEQUATE FAITH TO PENSIONERS

For goodness sake, it is very important and necessary for SSNIT to show adequate faith to the beneficiaries of the scheme and also keep to whatever promise and assurance in the payment of the pension allowance to deserving pensioners.  If for any circumstance beyond its control that tends to affect the date of the payment as stipulated on the calendar, it is wise and necessary for SSNIT to publish it for the beneficiaries to be aware of the new date but that should not even be stretched to the discomfort of the beneficiaries of the scheme.  Once this is done, the thousands of old men who troop to their banks which are the only sources of receiving their entitlements, will take precaution and minimise the resultant stress involved.

We need to accord pensioners the highest and greatest respect and treat them with dignity in view of their greatest sacrifices and immense contribution to society and the country in general.  Treating them with kit gloves means you are disrespecting them and that amounts to cursing oneself.

WHO QUALIFIES FOR PENSION?

For the sake of my readers let me throw a little light on the pension age in Ghana and who is entitled to pension.  Until the debate of the new retirement age of 65 years currently in progress is concluded and adopted in the country, the current retirement age is 60 years in accordance with the National Pension Act 2008 (Act 766) as amended by the National Pensions (Amendment Act 2014) Act 883.

For full pension, a worker must have attained 60 years of age (55 years if working under hazardous conditions) with at least 180 months (15 years) of contributions.  An early pension is also available to workers from age 55 years with at least 18 months (15 years) of contributions.  There are three main types of pension, the state pension paid by the government, occupational pension (your pension through work) and private personal payment.

The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has been mandated by law to administer the pension scheme in the country.  Percentage of monthly salaries of public sector workers is paid to SSNIT which holds the money in trust for workers as retirement benefits.  The scheme is opened to the private sector workers also.

HOW IS THE YEARLY PERCENTAGE INCREASE CALCULATED?

One particular issue that needs to be clarified by SSNIT is how the yearly percentage increase to pensioners is calculated.  At times, one sees the percentage going up to as far as 18 per cent increase while in some instances, it comes down to as low as 10 per cent.  This situation creates a bit of doubt and anxiety among beneficiaries, thus making them to assign political connotations to the payment procedures.  It was time SSNIT came out to educate pensioners about the method used in calculating yearly percentage adjustments in order to set the records straight.

TREATMENT GIVING TO PENSIONERS IN ADVANCED COUNTRIES

It is important to state that in some foreign jurisdictions across the globe, it is the pensioner who enjoys most.  Everything is subsidised for them to enjoy because they are considered people who have sacrificed for the betterment of their countries.  They enjoy tax rebates when they visit various shopping centres malls to purchase commodities.  Pensioners are held in high esteem, in the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), Germany, China and many other advanced nations across the globe.  However, in Africa especially our own country, Ghana, pensioners are looked down upon and treated with disdain.  This does not augur well for our democratic advancement.

PENSIONERS ASSOCIATION MUST BE PROACTVE

The leadership of the Pensioners Association of Ghana needs to be proactive and fight for the interest of its members not to sit aloof while pensioners are taken for a ride and giving a raw deal by SSNIT and its collaborators, otherwise that confidence reposed in them by members will be lost.  There are a number of pensioners who are yet to join the association because they don’t see the vibrancy of the association in coercing SSNIT for that matter the government to address the problems of members.

We need to know that pension is something that nobody can avoid as far as public sector worker is concerned.  That is why it is important to provide the needed comfort to pensioners as they relax in the comfort of their homes to enjoy the fruits of their labour.  It is equally important for public sector institutions to provide their workers with good and better salaries because pensions are worked on individual monthly salaries of workers.  Pensioners in this country deserve better than what exists now!

Contact email/WhatsApp of author: ataani2000@yahoo.com

0277753946/0248933366

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