Watson Duke –
PROGRESSIVE Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke has rejected the government’s plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65.
In the 2024 budget on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told Parliament there would be more consultations on actuarial recommendations to defer the retirement age to 65, to narrow the gap between contributions and claims on the National Insurance Board (NIB) pension fund.
But speaking during a news conference on Wednesday at the PDP’s headquarters, Port Mall, Scarborough, Duke scoffed at the plan.
“Is it that the government want to put people in walkers to come to work?” he asked.
Duke said at 60, people tend to develop all sorts of illnesses.
“At 30, my eyes were 20/20 vision and I felt old age had nothing to do with me. But I began to wear glasses a few years later.
“I could have sprinted like a gazelle and run like a cheetah. I recognise I can’t run so fast again. I have begun to slow down.”
He said age affects everyone, regardless of how many tablets they consume or how much they exercise.
“How could the government force someone who should be retired mandatorily at 60 years of age, doing mental and all kinds of laborious work, to work for an additional five years?”
Duke wondered if the trade unions were consulted.
“Where is the proper consultation with the unions, or have the unions sold out the people for a fistful of cash? Let us know the truth. What is going on?”
Duke, assemblyman for Roxborough/Argyle, insisted that 60 should remain the mandatory age of retirement.
“I say, leave it at 60 and if possible, reduce it to 45.”
He said in some Asian and Middle East countries, people have the option of retiring at 45.
“At 45, you could the go into the private sector with all of your energy and you can push more. You have a lot of life ahead of you, a lot of health.
“But not at 65. It is a bad state to put people who should be home relaxing or looking to just enjoy life, something we have fought for in this country.”
Duke also claimed all over the world, retirees receive a yearly increase in their pensions.
“It is something that matches, and if the government was so big on following world standards, they would have ensured all pensioners would have received a minimum increase of what inflation would have taken away from them.”
He accused the government of trying to create “a hotbed of disaster.”
During the budget debate in the Senate last October, Attorney General Reginald Armour SC, vowed to bring a bill to the Parliament to change the retirement age from 60 to 65.
On that occasion, Imbert hinted at an increase, saying a higher retirement age already existed in Jamaica and Barbados.
Auditors’ reports for the NIB have said there was a shrinking pool of contributors alongside an increasing number of claimants.
Early last year, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning held discussions with several unions on the issue of raising the retirement age.