Aspirants stand on retirees

Having spent over 20 years in post-retirement living, it appears society has cast aside civil service retirees. So, I want to make personal observations that may inform retirees’ decisions on who to vote for on May 21.

There is a growing population of retirees in the country. These retirees are living longer, in the process spending more on living without much of a safety net. So, they would like to know how the aspirants will address their plight.  Some of these retired in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Although the pension they received then was based on their final paltry salaries, the latter enabled one in 1973 to buy a Toyota Crown at K2 400.00 (which one obtained as a government loan), and in 1993 to buy The Nation newspaper at K2.00 a copy.

The paltry pensions, which were calculated during the period spanning the 1960s to the last quarter of the 1980s, using the then strong Malawi kwacha currency as a basis, enabled retirees to maintain a semblance of pre-retirement standard of living during their post-retirement living.

They now exist in an environment with multiple headwinds. The depreciation of the kwacha, the volatility in the rates of inflation which has since the 1970s increased exponentially are but some of the major macroeconomic variables that have eroded their pension benefits and strained their budgets.

There is also another factor that has exacerbated the welfare of retirees. Considered in 1991 and effected later in the decade was an upward adjustment of salaries which subsequently caused the retirees’ standard of post-retirement living in Malawi to be bifurcated.

Those whose pensions were calculated based on the improved salaries have since then been able to maintain a modicum standard of pre-retirement living during their post-retirement living while those who retired prior to the upward adjustment of salaries have been unable to do so.

Malawi’s achievements over the period from 1964 to the 1980s were founded on the grit, determination and sacrifice of a clean pioneering political generation, supported by a clean and capable administrative bureaucracy in whom the unsung heroes and heroines upheld the high standards of integrity, honesty and professionalism.

There was then no cashgate. Perhaps society may wish to ask: What do these senior citizens now ask the nation to do for them?

The answer to this question is simple. They are not asking to be made better off than they were when they retired. No, what they want is merely that the value of what they had rightfully earned through their careers of service should be maintained.

What they wish to see also is that their paltry pensions should be considered for the possibility of factoring into them the element that was used during the 1990s for the improvement of civil service salaries and which has since then widened the disparity in the quantum of pension now received by the pre-1990s-salary adjustment retirees relative to that received by the post-1990s-salary adjustment retirees. Is this asking too much?

It is no exaggeration to say that a pension now being received by an officer who retired at the rank of Secretary to the President and Cabinet, now known as Chief Secretary, during the 1970s is on par with, if not less than, the pension now received by one who retired after the post-1990s-salary adjustment at the grade of Executive Officer.

The senior citizens surely deserve to be treated by society better than this.

I number among the retirees who wish their decisions on which of the presidential aspirants to cast their votes for on 21 May 2019, informed on how each of them stands on this and other issues. Presidential aspirants, as you start roaming the country wooing votes, let us hear from you declare where you stand on this and other issues of national interest. n

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