Calls for pension benefit block to end
A Parliamentarian is demanding Samoans over 60 get their pension benefits back over travel fare, after a state of emergency order amendment took them away.
On 14 April changes to the state of emergency order included that pensioners over 60 travelling in public for non-medical reasons will not be eligible to use their pension benefits to save on ferry fares.
The order says the group are “strongly advised” to avoid travel and adhere to the most strict restrictions, and only travel if they need medical attention.
But as well as strong advice, the Government has shown it is willing to financially penalise older people who travel for reasons it deems unnecessary, taking away pension benefits on their fares.
The pension benefit entitles people over 60 to free travel on the ferry between Savaii and Upolu. It also entitles them to free doctor’s visits and medication.
In Parliament on Wednesday evening, the Member for Faaseleleaga Number 1 Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow said she believes the restriction on pensioners has gone on long enough.
People are not travelling without good reason, and if other restrictions are being relaxed then so too should this one, she said.
On the matter of pensions Ili Setefano Taateo Tafili, Member for Aana Alofa Number 2 called for higher payments.
He was backed by Amituanai Kenrick Samu from Aleipata Itupa I Luga who said the weekly payment should be increased to $200 per week (up from $145 today and $160 from July) and for the travel and health benefits to be removed.
He said this way, pension benefits will go to everyone, and not only the pensioners who are sick.
Fuiavailili Selesele, 72 year old from Tulaele and Matiu Salima Papalii, 63 year old from Magiagi told the Samoa Observer they feel the pension they get is plenty.
Asked if they wanted an increase and they said they get enough and that the current pension is better than nothing.
Samoa has few exports and natural resources, and with tourism being so disrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the pair support the Government's fiscal prudence.
Additional reporting by Vaitogi Asuisui Matafeo