15 April 2018

Rwanda: Pensioners Advocate for Special Retirement Policy

Pensioners have requested a special retirement policy in which they want the government to introduce a hospital to particularly provide healthcare to the elderly, help retirees get access to funding to carry out income-generating activities and a more affordable transport system.

Speaking to Sunday Times, the president of Rwanda Pensioners' Association (ARR), Modeste Munyuzangabo said they lack an effective platform through which to express concerns affecting their lives, explaining that the policy would help address some of the pressing issues such as healthcare provision and financing of pensioners' projects.

"Retirees need a geriatric hospital - which specialises in health care of elderly people because they are prone to old age ailments including diabetes, [hyper] tension, prostate cancer, backache among others," Munyuzangabo said observing that since there are pediatric hospitals taking care of children, it is necessary to have a health facility specialised in providing treatment to elders.

"The government should have a policy for retirees the same way there is a policy for youth, people with disabilities among others," Munyuzangabo said, adding that many pensioners still have a lot to offer in the country's development agenda.

He further stressed that the government should facilitate them access finance to run various income-generating activities.

"For instance, there are [retired] chemists who came together to process lemon grass - an aromatic tea herb locally called cyayicyayi -, but they lacked funding. If they had a platform which they can use to express their concerns, they could probably get support," he said.

Apart from increasing their monthly pension benefits in a timely manner to match the cost of living, if you make transport fee more affordable for them, or even scrap it altogether, retirees can smile all the way, says the Congress of Labour and Workers' Brotherhood in Rwanda (COTRAF) chairman, Dominique Bicamumpaka.

"In our days, an elder was a respected person in the society; their ideas were esteemed and given credence," Bicamumpaka said, explaining that they have expertise in areas of their specialisation which can be utilised.

He added that studies should be carried out every five years to evaluate whether the monthly pension given to retirees matches the cost of living or market prices because in some countries, the adjustment is done every two years to reflect market realities.

Bicamumpaka also pointed out that there should be ways to ease living conditions for them because the pension they get does not reflect market realities.

"Giving proper care to the retirees will also motivate the young workers because it gives a message that such care or recognition will also be given to the young employees once they grow old," he said.

The cabinet, in February 2018, approved a presidential order determining new pension and occupational hazards benefits by the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB).

The move will see some retirees who currently receive the lowest pension a month (Rwf5,200) - which the pensioners' association says was too little to meet the retiree's basic needs (including food) estimated to at least Rwf25,000 a month -increase to Rwf13,000 per month.

According to the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), by the end of June 2017, the pension scheme had 446,409 contributors and 17,378 pensioners.

Total pension payouts rose by 12 per cent from Rwf15.8 billion in June 2016 to Rwf17.7 billion in June 2017, mainly due to the increased number of pension beneficiaries which rose from 32,363 to 33,532, according to the BNR

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