Since the APNU-AFC coalition government took office in 2015, only three of more than two dozen listed state pensioners have been collecting payments, the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for issuing the payments, has disclosed.
In response to enquiries by Sunday Stabroek, the ministry said on Friday that 31 state pensioners are recorded in its database. Of that number, only three have been “active” over the past three years. This means that only three pensioners have been collecting payments. It is unclear why the other 28 have not been collecting payments. The names of the beneficiaries listed in the database were not provided.
The State Pension Act states that the award is made by the president if he “considers it desirable, having regard to nature and quality of service rendered to the state by a person….” It states too that upon the beneficiary’s death, the widow, married and unmarried, is entitled to a half of the state pension being paid up to that point and children under the age of 21 are entitled to a children’s allowance.
Following an announcement earlier this month by Minister of State Joseph Harmon that the current state pension would be tripled, concerns about the effect this will have on the country’s coffers were expressed.
Harmon announced that there would be an increase in the maximum annual rate currently being paid during a post-Cabinet press briefing, where he also said Cabinet had recently approved the payment of a state pension to well-known historian Sister Mary Noel Menezes.
He noted that Cabinet also considered and approved a submission by the Finance Minister for an increase in the maximum annual rate of state pension from $120,000 to $360,000.
Approached at the National Assembly on Friday, Finance Minister Winston Jordan said Sister Menezes is the only addition to the existing list of state pensioners since he took office in 2015.
Harmon had justified the award to the Professor Emeritus, saying that Cabinet felt that she was “most deserving” of a state pension. He said that based on Menezes’ experience and the quality of service she has given, the sum that was being paid was “very inadequate to at least maintain her in a decent state of life in her latter days.” Menezes, who last year launched a new book, entitled ‘Guyana and the Wider World,’ which features a collection of her essays and addresses, is in her late 80s.