MPs Trade Barbs Over Pension Hikes  

SWAPO (South-West Africa People's Organization) levelled a host of accusations against the opposition as ruling party lawmakers maintained their hardline stance against proposals to increase old age pensions on Wednesday.

The debate on an opposition motion calling for pensions to be upped to N$550 a month resumed with no signs compromise from either side of the House.

The current pension is N$250 a month ($34 GAA)

Swapo MPs insist there is no money for an increment and claim opposition parties are simply using the issue to score political points.

But those in opposition contend that Government has enough money to provide a decent social pension for senior citizens and that it is a matter of getting priorities right.

Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Gabes Shihepo, asked the mover of the motion Katuutire Kaura to "honourably" withdraw it, saying all parties are concerned about fate of the elderly.

Interjected the DTA-UDF coalition President: "Over my dead body ... you can reject it if you so wish".

Shihepo stressed the need for elderly people to be accorded a better life because they had worked for it.

However, he added: "Unfortunately reality dictates otherwise and our elderly people will have to survive for another year on the small handouts they receive from the State".

Deputy Minister of Labour Rosalia Nghidinwa called for the House to reject the motion.

"They (opposition parties) are trying to use the old age pension and the State House [issue] as their weapon of mass destruction to destroy the image of the Namibian nation," she charged.

In her contribution, Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa said she was disappointed that MPs could come with such a motion at "this point", as they were the first to be informed about the state of the country's economy when the Budget was tabled.

She urged opposition parties to introduce motions that would contribute to the socio-economic upliftment of the nation, instead of only "trying to politicise issues".

The CoD's Dr Elizabeth Amukugo supported the motion, saying that paying old age pensions was the Government's constitutional obligation and social responsibility rather than a privilege as purported by some members of the ruling party.

Copyright 2002 Global Action on Aging
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