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Respecting our pensioners through serious proposals

PN candidate Robert Cutajar writes: We want to guarantee a society that looks after those within it who are faced with the greatest difficulties, and who are most in need of the solidarity of the rest of us

16 May 2017, 1:03pm
Those elderly people who only receive a non-contributory old age pension also deserve the support of the state for a decent life
Those elderly people who only receive a non-contributory old age pension also deserve the support of the state for a decent life
What we all have today did not happen by accident. It is the fruit of the work and efforts of those generations that came before us, which is the foundation of this success. The Nationalist Party recognises the debt of gratitude that we owe the older generations of our society, and in the spirit of politics for people, has presented proposals which will contribute to providing a better standard of living for pensioners. 

Pensioners have worked hard and paid for their pension rights, and it is the least that we can do to guarantee a level of income that guarantees a dignified lifestyle. The first step will be to remove income tax from all pensions, irrespective of their provenance and their amounts. Elderly persons have worked hard and paid for their pensions during a lifetime of work and payment of tax and other contributions, so this exemption gives due credit to this fact.

A Nationalist Government will also remove the discrepancy that exists between the sustenance calculated for persons who are still working, and those who are living on their pensions. The current system seems to be labouring under the impression that the elderly need less money to be able to go about their lives, and therefore they receive only a percentage of the minimum wage. This will be addressed by establishing the national minimum pension at par with the national minimum wage. This will ensure that the elderly will be receiving at least what the state establishes, from time to time, as being the minimum level required for sustenance. This means that the national minimum pension will be raised to €169.76.  An estimated 18,000 pensioners will benefit from this measure, with their lives becoming easier by receiving the hard-earned, and much-needed support that they deserve, and for which they have worked for all their lives. 

Many pensioners, especially those who, for some reason or another, started working relatively late in life, see their contributory pension reduced because they did not pay enough National Insurance contributions during their working life. A Nationalist Government shall give these people the opportunity, for a limited period of time, to pay the number of contributions required to achieve full pension rights. Through these contributions paid as arrears, these persons will be able to reach the minimum amount of contributions required to earn themselves a decent pension. 

Those elderly people who only receive a non-contributory old age pension also deserve the support of the state for a decent life, therefore their pension will be increased to 60% of the average national income, meaning a weekly €155.70.  

The previous Nationalist Government had also introduced a measure whereby those pensioners who were over 75 years old, and opted to continue living their lives independently in their own homes, would receive an annual payment of €300 to support and encourage this choice. A new Nationalist Government will raise the amount to €500. Couples who are both over 75, shall both receive this payment. Over 27,000 persons are expected to benefit from this measure. 

At present, women who had never worked, and depended upon their husband’s income, are only receiving a part of the pension, when widowed. We shall introduce a measure whereby wives of pensioners, if widowed, will inherit the full pension that was due to their husbands, and not keep having a one-sixth deduction.  

Service pensions have also been the subject of much discussion over the years, and a new Nationalist Government will address this matter frontally, and achieve a fair and permanent solution. First of all, all national service pensions, such as police and armed forces, will be annually increased with any cost of living increase decided. We also propose to solve the anomaly currently facing those who have their national contributory pension reduced, because they also receive service pensions. This will be done gradually, and in a manner directly linked to their age. In fact those who are over 80 – around 2,300 persons are in this situation – will cease to have their service pension income considered when their pension is being calculated. They will therefore receive their full pension. Those of a younger age will have the percentage of the service pension considered in this calculation reduced according to a table, thus ensuring that all such pensioners will benefit to some extent from this scheme.

These proposals entail the introduction of measures that in concrete terms appreciate the value and contribution that the older generations have given to our society. Pearl Sydenstricker Buck, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938, wrote that “Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members”.  This sentence is a powerful expression of a key principle of civilised societies. The proposals we are offering to the Maltese electorate for the upcoming election were not plucked out of thin air, but are based on careful study and caring principles. We want to guarantee a society that looks after those within it who are faced with the greatest difficulties, and who are most in need of the solidarity of the rest of us. Establishing this principle will benefit Malta and its people not only today, but for generations to come. It is the right way forward.

Robert Cutajar is contesting the 12th district for the Nationalist Party

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