Monrovia – The controversial Pension Bill before the Legislature is sparking up a serious debate, with the public now joining the call for the bill to be passed into law.
Report by Edwin G. Genoway, Jr. [email protected]
Liberians are demanding that the Pension Bill be passed and people be pensioned at age 60 years.
FrontPageAfrica has been gathering views of Liberians who are calling on the lawmakers to make it possible that the Pension Bill be passed.
“At least at age 60 an individual needs to be retired and benefit from the pension bill. We will be happy if the bill is passed for all Liberians to benefit,” Peter Momo of Sinkor stressed.
Dr. Moses Sirleaf is the operator of the Sirleaf Medical Clinic in Paynesville who is also in support of the bill to be passed into law.
“Even though I have my private work and I am earning my own money, but passing the pension bill will help our older folks who are retiring from their various place of work,” Sirleaf noted.
A representative aspirant, Fubbi Henries, is calling on that august body to pass the pension bill. Henries said he had worked for 11 years in the private sector and had met the minimum contributions to qualify for pension payment when he reaches 60 years under the national pension scheme.
“I have also grown through the ranks and am earning better salary to secure a decent benefit if I live to see 60 years and above but how many people have been blessed to obtain my status? Not more than 3% of the Labor force.
If I may guess, that means we have majority of the labor force that will have issues after retirement,” he noted
In the interview with the FrontPage Africa, Henries said he has seen people die from stress and heart attack a year or two after retirement and after their retirement news was given them.
The District #9 representative aspirant noted that retirement plan of Liberia was not seen as a blessing to retirees, saying, this has also contributed to the drop in the life expectancy of Liberians.
“Time has changed and the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation Act has not been reviewed for over 28 years.
Almost three decades, and in all fairness this is unacceptable. Moreover, Liberia is the least in the sub-region, and the maximum benefit a retiree can get when retired is 48% average of the last five years best salary,” he noted
He said people spent all their lives working and employers contribute some of their profits to secure a decent future for their employees, and the retired employees did not live to benefit and even if they did, there was an automatic drop of 75% in their living standards.
According to him, the NASSCORP Act needs amendment to reflect today’s realities, saying a key function of our Lawmakers is to review existing laws and make amendments to reflect on the wellbeing of the citizens.
Tina Freeman, 43, who works at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), supports the idea of passing the pension bill.
“With the passing of the pension, it will help some of us since we are getting older,” she said. “The pension shouldn’t only cover public officials, we all need to be beneficiaries of that bill,” she said.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently rejected the proposed law aimed at providing huge pension and retirement benefits for the President of Liberia, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate and members of the National Legislature, elected officers of the Legislature.
Other beneficiaries would have included the Vice President, Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the subordinate courts.
The Senate and the House of Representatives submitted the bill to the President since its passage in November 2014 but the President vetoed the bill.
In a letter to former House Speaker Alex Tyler, dated August 3, 2015, but read on Tuesday, September 29, President Sirleaf based her disapproval on procedural error, ambiguity and cost.
The President argued that the bill did not conform to the requirement of the Constitution, which provides under Article 29 that, “It is enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Legislature assembled.”
Second, the President pointed out that the bill did not speak to the situation of persons who served as transitional and interim leaders, specifically chairs and co-chairs of the government.
The President also asserted that though Section 2.4.4 (of the Proposed Law) authorized the Legislature to determine a one-time death benefit to the surviving spouse, upon the demise of a former legislator, she is of the opinion that the provision is vague and may serve as a means of confusion in the determination of the amount to be paid to each surviving spouse.
The President further argued that Section 1.4.2 (of the Proposed Law) speaks to the re-election of the former Chief Justice and the former Associate Justices, stating that in accordance with Article 54 of the Constitution, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices are appointed by the President, and therefore, could not be re-elected.
The President added, that in view of her disapproval, as provided for in Article 35 of the Constitution, she was returning the Act to the Legislature to amend and restate the act.
The motion for the President’s disapproval of the bill to be sent to the House’s leadership for review and subsequent collaboration, made by Lofa County Representative, Clarence Massaquoi, was voted for overwhelmingly.
In the amended law, a former President who was elected and served his/her term successfully and is not re-elected, thus retiring to private life, and who is not in any way gainfully employed by the Government of Liberia, shall receive an annuity to be divided into monthly payments equal to 50% of the incumbent President’s salary and 25 percent of the incumbent President’s monthly allowances and benefits.