Sarjo Camara Singateh
Retired civil servants have described the pensions they are paid as pittance. Some of them who receive a monthly pension pay as low as D82 say they cannot rely on their pensions for survival and have to engage in work again in order to enhance their earnings in order to meet the needs of their families.
This reporter visited the July 22 Square on Tuesday 24 June 2014 where pensioners were receiving their pension dues. Four officials were at the veranda paying the pensioners.
Pensioners described their monthly pension allowance pay as a token. They indicated that they receive their pension money on a monthly, quarterly or six months basis. They all said the low earning capacity of government employees is what is responsible for the low payment of pensions which they described as pittance.
The pensioners said their pension earnings fall far below their needs. They said it is grossly inadequate compared to say the cost of a bag of rice or even to get a complete dose of malaria at private pharmacies.
One pensioner said he receives D350.00 every month. He described it as just a ‘chicken change’ when you know what his family needs is. “I am married with two wives and children, the only hope for me now is my children but they are very young and they also depend on me to feed them and take care of all their needs,” explained this pensioner. He pointed out that they were promised that their plight would be looked into with a view to increasing their earnings. He said since that promise nothing has been done about it, but they are counting on the authorities to look into their situation.
Another person at the scene stated that he came to receive the money on behalf of a relative but acknowledged that what the pensioners are lamenting is true. He expressed fear for his future, pointing out he would also become a pensioner. He noted that the present condition is shocking and this is what is responsible for the continuous poverty in the country, which only brings more hardship to the citizens.
An old man who said he retired at grade 7 said that he is receiving D571.40 monthly. He said all is not well considering the nature of his family; that electricity, water bills, rice and fish money far surpasses what he described as the meager sum he receives. He said this amount is far on the low side considering all these expenses, not forgetting that clothing is also to be provided.
One pensioner expressed concern and calls on the authorities to review their pensions because of the present economic realities. He stated that the Ramadan is on its way and before they would receive next month’s pension pay they would be at the tail end of the month. He pointed out that normally during the Ramadan prices are on the high side.
He described his pay of D150 as too low to buy anything. He said because of this he decided to join the workforce again but still things are tough for him. The old pensioner showed me two medical prescription forms and said, ‘you see I am going to buy medicine for my children and I needed to pay D400.00 at LAB for my two children. Right now what I have is not enough for the medication of my two daughters. Sometimes I end up taking loans that I pay if I receive any money from any relative or kind people,’ he said.
Another pensioner said he receives D82.00 per month. He said he is engaged in another work. He noted that he has a wife and children but from his personal efforts he was able to educate his children. He said the economic realities show a big gap between earnings and living conditions.