Government is "eyeing" options, including allowing people to choose to retire at various ages from 60 onwards, in its bid to secure the National Insurance (NIS) fund.
But there's definitely no recommendation or consideration to reduce the NIS pension.
Minister in the Ministry of in Finance Alyson West confirmed the positions yesterday when asked by the T&T Guardian about recent concerns about the NIS system/retirement age voiced by the Opposition and labour leaders prior to, and during Labour Day.
UNC MP Rudy Indarsingh, during recent debate on amendments to increase pensions for legislators, judges, the PM and president, called on Finance Minister Colm Imbert to say if Government would "freeze" the NIS pension at $3,000, whether it would be reduced incrementally over the years by six per cent and whether Government would increase the retirement age from 60 to 65.
Another newspaper subsequently quoted OWTU's Ancel Roget at Labour Day celebrations as announcing unions should prepare to protest against a "proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65." State-owned TTT also reported Roget also claimed there are "plans by the government to drastically reduce the NIS pension."
But when asked about it, West disputed those interpretations.
She said Government had recognised that the NIS fund isn't growing at a sufficiently robust rate to cover pensions going forwards. She acknowledged that the main recommendations by NIB's committee on the issue had involved increasing NIS contributions and increasing the retirement age to 65.
But she added while the government was giving active considerations to those aspects and is having stakeholder discussions, various options are being examined
"We're looking at various options; what we'd contemplated starting with was gradually increasing the (retirement) age to 65. Giving people the option to retire from age 60 onwards is something that will probably be considered," she added when asked.
"A lot of people want to work past 60 because age 60 now isn't like 60 was years ago. So a lot of people don't mind the option to continue working,"
"One has to consider institutional memory and expertise being lost if people all retire at age 60. But this would have to be balanced against giving young graduates the opportunity to enter the workforce - so we're looking at the whole picture,"
In her view, she said the pension issue needs to examined holistically and not only the NIS aspect alone, "The cost of senior citizens' pension is also an aspect that needs examining and public servants' pensions also need to be examined," West said, adding that if one area is adjusted, other aspects may become imbalanced.
Contacted on his thoughts on a staggering level of retirement ages from 60 onwards, Indarsingh said he'd have to examine that.
- by Gail Alexander