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Pensioners’ age raises dust

DEPUTY Minister of Finance ‘Matšepo RamakoaeBoitumelo Koloi

MASERU — Reducing the threshold for old age pension beneficiaries from 70 years down to 60 would overwhelm government and render the programme unsustainable, the government has said.

The Deputy Minister of Finance ’Matšepo Ramakoae of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) told parliament that reducing the said threshold would mean inflating the numbers of beneficiaries on the programme.

In the run-up to last year’s election ABC leader Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is on record as having promised to reduce the threshold of old age pensioners from 70 years down to 60 as well as increase their monthly payment to up to M800 from M350, then.

The pension was increased to M450 at the beginning of the current financial year in March.

The total number of beneficiaries of the social pensions grant administered by the Ministry of Social Development currently stands at 85 745 comprising the three categories of old age pensioners, Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) pensioners and World War Veterans and old age pensioners.

Responding to a question posed in the National Assembly by Member of Parliament for the Mosalemane constituency Jobo Sekautu, Ramakoae said that the current economic growth was not good enough to accommodate the anticipated raise.

The current number of pensioners, at M450 per head each month, costs the fiscus no less than M37 979 150 monthly.

According to Ramakoae the reduction of the qualifying age would be considered for the future.

“However, the reduction of qualifying age will be considered in the future subject to a favourable financial position,” Ramakoae said.

Sekautu had asked the question “pursuant to ABC’s promises during the election campaign” leading to the May 2012 general polls.

Asked to shed light on the assertion Ramakoae said she was answering not as a member of the ABC but her response was based on the government’s projections and as such was on behalf of government not a political party.

The government has been under fire from the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) who have been using the fact that government has to date failed to live up to its campaign promises.

Addressing a poorly attended rally in ’Makhoroana last Sunday, DC leader former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said government had bitten off more than it can chew by “making outrageous and naive promises”.

“This government cannot be trusted on any of its promises; it is unreliable and untrustworthy. The current Prime Minister promised to reduce the old age pensions down to 60 years and improve the pension by up to M800 but they have failed dismally to deliver any of those,” Mosisili said.

The social pensions programme was initiated by the Mosisili-administration in 2008 with a monthly M100 (increasing at a steady M50 annual rate until last year when the new administration hiked it by M100) paid to every Mosotho elderly person aged 70 years and above.

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