Saint Lu­cia In­creases Pen­sion Age to 65

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

of the cor­po­ra­tion re­spon­si­ble for state pen­sions say the move will en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity of the na­tional in­surance pro­gramme.

Saint Lu­cians will now be able to get a full pen­sion from the age of 65 after the gov­ern­ment raised the el­i­gi­bil­ity age by five years ef­fec­tive from Jan­uary 1.

The Na­tional In­surance Cor­po­ra­tion (NIC), the agency in charge of pen­sions, said the move will en­sure all Saint Lu­cians can re­ceive a pen­sion un­til they die.

“If we had to con­tinue along the path that we were go­ing, pay­ing a pen­sion at 60 years and with a min­i­mum pen­sion of less than 40 per­cent of a per­son’s av­er­age in­sur­able earn­ings, NIC would have fallen into dif­fi­cul­ties. It would mean that by the year 2030, NIC would have to be sell­ing its as­sets to meet its pen­sion ex­pen­di­ture,” said Au­gustin Louis, the NIC’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesper­son.

How­ever, not ev­ery­one is happy with the changes. Some NIC con­trib­u­tors are con­cerned that they will have to work ad­di­tional years in or­der to ob­tain re­tire­ment ben­e­fits.

Cyn­thia James is near re­tire­ment age and wor­ries that cit­i­zens her age may not get to en­joy a pen­sion while they are still ac­tive.

“It’s con­cern­ing to me be­cause most peo­ple die very young. 50 years or 40 years. They never reach 60 and to raise it to 65 now is like the gov­ern­ment wants to keep all the money for them­selves,” said James. “I un­der­stand that the NIC needs to make more money to pay pen­sions, but I do not think this is the an­swer to this prob­lem. We work hard all our lives and we want to be able to en­joy a com­fort­able, lengthy re­tire­ment.”

Alpheus George agrees. He too thinks that a re­tire­ment age of 65 is too old.

“How many peo­ple can live up to 65? Not many, just a few. So it is just peo­ple pay­ing money (to NIC) for noth­ing. Take me for ex­am­ple. I am not a healthy per­son. I spend a lot of time in the hos­pi­tal and pay­ing med­i­cal bills,” said George. “Telling me that I now have to wait longer for a pen­sion is not re­ally fair. I am not say­ing the NIC does not need the win­dow pe­riod to make more money, I just think they need to find another way to make this money.”

The av­er­age life ex­pectancy is 74 for a Saint Lu­cian man and 80 for a woman. The NIC’s Louis said he un­der­stands the con­cerns of those near re­tire­ment, but con­tends that ev­ery pen­sioner will ben­e­fit from this in­surance pro­gramme.

“What peo­ple some­times for­get is that once you reach the age of 65 and qual­ify for the pen­sion, you will re­ceive a monthly sub­sis­tence for the rest of your life, re­gard­less of how much you con­trib­uted. For ex­am­ple, there are peo­ple whose lifetime con­tri­bu­tions to the NIC would prob­a­bly be enough to take care of them for three years, but we would not stop as­sist­ing them after three years. We would en­sure they re­ceive as­sis­tance for the rest of their lives,” said Louis.

An ac­tu­ar­ial re­view of the NIC con­ducted in 1996 by the In­ter­na­tional La­bor Or­ga­ni­za­tion noted that the re­tire­ment age in Saint Lu­cia was among the low­est in the world and rec­om­mended an in­crease.

NIC of­fi­cials said the new re­tire­ment age will en­sure a more ef­fi­cient na­tional in­surance pro­gramme. by te­leSUR cor­re­spon­dent for

Saint Lu­cia, Ali­son Ken­tish

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