Pension Hike Ruled Out  

At the first ever national consultative conference for the elderly, Health and Social Services Minister Dr Libertina Amathila said that while it was Government's intention to continue increasing grants for pensioners this could only be considered when the country was financially better off.

The current pension is only N$250 per month.

"Our Government cares, Namibia cares for older people, but we only have one cake and there is a lot to share. Once resources have improved, we will add a little onto old age pensions," Amathila told about 100 pensioners from all the country's regions gathered in Windhoek to discuss issues facing them.

The conference comes ahead of the International Day of Older People, which will be commemorated tomorrow.

About 108 423 pensioners are currently registered to receive grants - just more than 80 per cent of the total eligible population.

Amathila said calls for an increase in pensions by opposition political parties were an election campaign ploy and a tactic by younger people to take more from their elderly parents.

Pensions were last increased in February 2002, from N$200 to N$250 per month.

The Health Minister explained that her Ministry was spending a lot of money on upgrading existing health facilities, and the building of new ones to the extent that it intends to ask for an additional N$31 million from the budget to carry out its projects.

The National Assembly is expected to debate the increase in pensions this week, at the request of DTA-UDF leader Katuutire Kaura, who tabled a motion in the House last week, requesting an increase in pensions to N$550.

Due to lack of financial resources Amathila is instead proposing that social pensions be supplemented with food rations in times of drought.

Regina Kondombolo, who serves on the National Council for Older Persons in Namibia , told The Namibian that the elderly struggle to get by on their meagre monthly grants.

Many of them, she says, are unable to meet payments for their houses in which some have lived for over 30 years, while keeping up with municipal services bills was impossible.

The children of the elderly also came under fire at the conference for their alleged maltreatment of their parents.

"They abuse the elderly terribly. They say they are going to the urban areas to find work, and then they return with babies which they just dump with them," said Kondombolo.

Amathila said she was aware of the increasing burden placed on the resources of the elderly because they are forced to take care of the children who have become infected with AIDS, and subsequently their grandchildren who are orphaned as a result.

But the Minister has said that the answer to these problems does not lie in the institutionalisation of the elderly.

While it will continue to support existing homes for the aged, Amathila says her Ministry is not in favour of supporting the establishment of more such institutions.

A national survey on the status of living conditions of the elderly is expected to start next month, while a bill on the rights and care of older people is also in the offing - in the hope of improving the plight of the aged.





Copyright 2002 Global Action on Aging
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