The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) believes that the government should not block overseas-Guyanese from receiving their non-contributory old-age pension, rather seek out middle and high-income earners that are receiving old age pension, but do not need it.
During a press conference on Wednesday, PPP Member of Parliament, Gail Teixeira deemed the recent announcement by the Minister of Social Protection as a “constitutional conundrum,” noting that “the constitution says you are Guyanese and whether you live here or not.”
“Why would you want to trouble these people, they have served their country, they have served us. They have a lot of Guyanese who served this country… what if they need it? Because there are also old age people in this country that are upper and middle class that don’t need it like ordinary people…Why not target them?” Teixeira said.
This also applies to public assistance, the Minister said through the Government Information Agency (GINA). The Minister said “We will be putting an end to persons who are ‘double dipping’…we have persons who believe that it is their right to live in a foreign country and collect their pensions here…we are saying no, it is not going to happen.”
She described the practice as ‘double dipping’ since Guyanese living overseas allegedly collect benefits in that country as well. Lawrence is quoted by GINA as saying that some students are beneficiaries of public assistance in Guyana, but they also benefit from similar assistance in neighbouring Brazil.
To this, Teixeira said “…why would you want to interfere the group living on the borders and how many people are there? Who she (Minister Volda Lawrence) thinks are getting assistance from Brazil and Guyana because the persons getting assistance in the hinterland are not a lot.”
In a statement last evening it was pointed out that the Old Age Pension is provided for under the Old Age Pension Act (Chapter 36:03), which clearly states that “the statutory conditions which shall be fulfilled by every person before he is entitled to receive a pension and which shall continue to be fulfilled while he is in receipt of this pension.”
These statutory conditions are:
- The person must have attained the age of sixty-five years;
- The person must satisfy the appropriate authority that s/he has been a citizen of Guyana for at least ten years immediately preceding his [her] claim for a pension;
- The person must have been ordinarily resident in Guyana during the twenty years immediately preceding his [her] claim for pension.
However, the practice over the years has been persons applying for Old Age Pension must have been living in Guyana for at least two years preceding their application and it is precisely that approach that was highlighted by the recently conducted audit as erroneous, since the law actually prescribes that the Old Age Pension applicant “must have been ordinarily resident in Guyana during the twenty years immediately preceding his [her] claim for pension”.
But the act also pointed out that “In calculating the means of any person for the purposes of this act, account shall be taken of- the income which that person may reasonably expect to receive in cash excluding any sum receivable as pension; the value of any property belonging to that person; the value of any advantage accruing to that person from the use or enjoyment of any property belonging to him which is personally used or enjoyed by him, except furniture and personal effects; the value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by that person.”
Old Age Pension is not an entitlement from employment, as in the case of Government Pension and the National Insurance Scheme Pension, but rather Old Age Pension is a monthly payment ($18,200 at present) available to eligible Guyanese aged 65 or older.
Additionally, persons receiving Old Age Pension may become ineligible if that person is a resident in a charitable institution that provides board and lodging; is in prison or has migrated.