This chronic social compensation deficit must be addressed

This chronic social compensation deficit must be addressed

Dear Editor,

As of now there have been three active Administrations within this decade, with each in such implacable opposition, that neither has troubled to relate to any positive effort the other may have promoted, with the aim of possible improvement.

One well documented effort, that interestingly enough, has been ignored by the very sponsors (APNU+AFC Government) was the 2016 Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service of Guyana.

The following paragraphs are extracted from the Report’s Chapter 6: Retirement Age for Public Servants – For necessary action:

“The retirement age in the Public Service is 55 years, and with approval 50 years. Public Sector organisations such as the Bank of Guyana, the National Insurance Scheme, the Guyana Revenue Authority, and staff of the Audit Office of Guyana have a retirement age of 60 years. The Private Sector also has higher than the Public Service retirement age based on pension schemes providing for retirement between 60 and 65 years, and with no fixed retirement age for top executives. Similarly, there is no retirement age for Parliamentarians and Ministers. The retirement age for staff at the University of Guyana is 65 years, and for the members of Judiciary and the Auditor General, the retirement age is 65 years.

It is argued that the age of 55 is too early an age for retirement for Public Servants. Testimonies to the Commission support and advocate for higher retirement age for Public Service staff. The contention is that at age 55, Public Servants would have acquired deep knowledge and wide experience in public management and in their professional and specialist fields. Therefore, it is a great loss of skills and expertise to the Public Service with a retirement age of 55. This is one of the arguments used to justify the re-employment of retired public servants on contract immediately upon retirement.

While the age of retirement for civil servants is 60 years in the British Virgin Islands, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, the current retirement age is 65 years in Bermuda, and 66.5 years in Barbados; and Dominica has abolished the retirement age on the ground of non-discrimination; while International Organisations within the United Nations System retire International Civil Servants on attaining 62 years of age. The current retirement age in the Republic of South Africa is 65 years. (Public Service Act, 1994).

The higher retirement age of 65 years would provide for higher pensions under the Pension Act for public officers who would also continue to contribute to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) until the age of 60 years when NIS pensions would be paid. This would further increase the finances of the NIS scheme by the extended contributions from the employer and the employees for an additional period of five years, thus convinced that a higher retirement age for Public Servants would be mutually beneficial to the State, the public employees,and them National Insurance Scheme.”

As a consequence the Commission proceeded to make the following recommendations:

“….new entrants into the Public Service, and those currently in the Public Service who are below 50 years of age, be retired on attaining 65 years of age, with the option of retiring on attaining 60 years;

That pension entitlements be calculated at a maximum of 43 and one-third service years;

That public servants who are currently below 55 years of age, be allowed the option to retire on attaining 60 years or any time before 65 or on attaining 65 years of age;

That no person retiring from the Public Service before attaining the age of 65 years should be employed on contract in an established Public Service position.

That the Pensions Act Chapter 27:02 be amended as may be required to provide for higher pensions as a result of the higher retirement age.”

However ignored the recommendations have been so far, it is nevertheless not irrelevant of aspects of the pandemic rush of terminations of long serving public servants witnessed recently – incidentally a process that would not necessarily convince the ambitions of some recent replacements about the security of future careers, having regard to the glare of attention given to their own ‘political appointments’.

In the meantime the decision-makers who ignore the constipative retirement age of their immediate taxpayers themselves enjoy related compensation for any length of Parliamentary service (however suspect).

More importantly, the records would show too often the inability of the public service retiree at 55 to match both employer and employee monthly contributions in order to achieve the required minimum to qualify for the NIS pension at age 60 years (5 years!).

(In parenthesis it is not like the old days when recruitment into the ‘civil’ service was based on positive health certification, after mandatory medical examination. Mine was a rather tasteful experience with the foreign doctor gleefully acclaiming I was in good health, after ascertaining that we both drank the same brand of rum.)

Why is no decision-maker paying attention to redressing this chronic social compensation deficit, which also applies to members of the teaching profession who are so poorly paid in the first instance?

The concern here is about more than a constitutional, but of a profound human right. Also they are all voters.

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

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