T&T President Paula-Mae Weekes will stand to collect a pension of $1.4m annually under Government’s proposed pension amendments, UNC Senator Wade Mark said yesterday.
He said the Opposition had calculated the benefits to be accrued under the pension amendment proposed by Government for increased pensions for the Prime Minister, President, judges and legislators.
This was part of the package of amendments presented in the Senate yesterday. It involved the Tax amnesty along with amendments to laws on pensions NIS, Freedom of Information, Central Bank and Non-Profit organisations. It was passed in the Lower House last week.
Senator Mark, maintaining Opposition objections to the Bill, said it would be tested in the courts. He said the Opposition would propose amendments to delete pension increases for the Prime Minister, President, judges and legislators whom he said were a chosen few. “It’s obscene and greedy to bring this now.”
He said the past government withdrew similar proposals due to public concern. Mark queried why no pension increases were proposed for the country’s 28,000 daily-rated workers. Mark said the Salaries Review Commission mandated a report on pensions. “We’re waiting for that although Government’s feathering its own nest,” he said.
He noted pension increases would apply to Government/Cabinet ministers, non-Cabinet ministers and the Senate Vice President. But he said it would not apply to Government non- portfolio backbenchers, independent or Opposition senators. Mark said former independent senator Louise Horne who served 15 years, is now in an Arima senior citizens’ home and “retired senators should qualify also.”
On the Central Bank amendment to get CBTT information, he said this was because Finance Minister Colm Imbert had a vendetta against former CBTT governor Jwala Rambaran who wanted “millions.”
Imbert said the pension aspect was needed to assist former Parliamentarians such as a former UNC MP whom he said had to sell his house to handle medical bills for his wife and himself. He also highlighted a former PNM Minister who left in 1995 after two terms and who’s now bedridden, obtaining only a $4,500 pension.
He said a former Chief Justice had to split his $10,000 pension between family expenses and medical bills, a former judge “lived and died in poverty” and a 1981 (PNM) Cabinet minister who had suffered a stroke lived on a “pittance.”
He said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had expressed interest in aspects of the bill on former prime ministers with gratuity since she had taken three quarters lumpsum pension and a gratuity.
Reporter: Gail Alexander