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St. Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association weighs in on pension increase


~ Says average monthly old age pension per person is only US $278 ~

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association (SMSPA) First Vice President Raymond Jessurun says while seniors in St. Maarten were hoping to start their New Year “happy” by collecting an old age pension of NAf. 1,000 (US $556), only persons who had been working in the former Netherlands Antilles for 45 years will be entitled to this maximum amount once it goes into effect. Jessurun said this category of seniors would receive a monthly increase of NAf. 144 or US $80.

“The alleviation of the seniors’ burden announced by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Health, Labour and Social Development and the Director of the SZV [Social and Health Insurances , ed.] was a maximum amount of NAf. 4.80 or US $2.67 a day,” Jessurun said. “How happy will the daily lives of these seniors be made this year with this little increase of US $2.67 a day?” Jessurun said that as a consequence of migration, the majority of the persons collecting old age pension in St Maarten had not lived 45 years in the Netherlands Antilles and would not be entitled to the maximum amount. “By law, a cut of two per cent per year has to be applied for every year a senior has not lived in the Netherlands Antilles. The argument is that they have not paid into the system when they were abroad. Because of this legal ruling the average old age pension paid out in St. Maarten, on a monthly basis, was NAf. 500 (US $278) per person,” he said.

He said the calculated average old age pension per person was currently NAf. 575 or US $319 per month. The average increase per senior is NAf. 75 or US $41 a month, or in actuality NAf. 2.50 or US $1.39 per day. “How happy would the average senior be with this little increase of an average of US $1.39 a day? Does this US $1.39 a day alleviate the burden of the seniors announced by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and the Director of the SZV?” he asked. Jessurun alluded to an SZV press release in December stating that for 2013 the old age pension had not been modified in accordance to the development of the cost of living, but an exception had been made to increase the pension amount to NAf. 1,000 per month as of January 1.

According to the Bureau of Statistics Stat, the cost-of-living (COLA) increase from August 2011 to August 2012 was 4.7 per cent. He said the old age pension/COLA adjustment legally would have resulted in a maximum old age pension of NAf. 896 or US $498. “Keep in mind, though, that the exception announced to pay the maximum of NAf. 1,000 still has to be approved or amended by Parliament. The 15 Parliamentarians, and especially the ones who are supporting this government programme for the people, have to decide if they approve the government proposal or if they instruct government to do social justice to the seniors and pensioners of St. Maarten in this part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands,” said Jessurun. “Before Parliament can address this issue though, government has to await the advice of the Social Economic Council and of the Advisory Council. We are curious to know the arguments and recommendations of these councils to government (and Parliament) to eradicate the poverty among the majority of the seniors here in St. Maarten who only have an old age state pension to live from.

“Will these councils address the human rights deficit in this part of the Kingdom and recommend to government and Parliament of St. Maarten how to achieve equal social pensions and social protection in this part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands? What will government do with the advice from these two councils?” he asked. “In January of this year the parliamentary delegations of St. Maarten, on the request of the social organisations, requested the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation (IPKC) to put cooperation in the Kingdom to realise equal social economic and cultural rights with all means possible in the Kingdom on the agenda of the next IPKC meeting.

“Will our Parliamentarians come up with resolutions to instruct the St. Maarten government and the Kingdom government to eradicate the poverty in St. Maarten and to make the old age pensions and the social protection in St. Maarten equal as in the European part of the Kingdom?” Jessurun said the old age pensions in the Dutch Caribbean and in St. Maarten were poverty pensions. “This conclusion is based upon the absolute CBS poverty-line study for Curaçao (CBS 2008), the higher cost of living in St. Maarten as compared to the cost of living in Curaçao, and absolute poverty level definition of the European Union.” Jessurun is also first vice president of the Confederation of Pensioners and Older Persons of Curaçao, and first vice president of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Retirees, Pensioners and Older Persons.

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