25 January 2019, Apia Samoa. A total of $18 million tala is set aside by the Government for senior citizens pension scheme each year.
If there is a restructure in how the scheme is implemented, it will not go above the budgetted $18 million.
This was revealed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi during his weekly programme with the media yesterday.
Tuilaepa was asked to elaborate on the senior citizens pension scheme after it was raised by Member of Parliament for Vaimauga Sasa’e Sulamanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa, in Parliament earlier this week.
Sulamanaia requested the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, to look into ways that could make the scheme more equitable for senior citizens, suggesting an increase in payouts in lieu of various benefits.
He added, not all senior citizens are receiving the benefits of the pension such as riding for free on the ferry and getting free medication from the hospital.
In response, the Prime Minister said nothing has been finalised as these were just ideas brought forward to Parliament.
Tuilaepa added that options such as increasing the cash received by pensioners can be considered, in place of amounts paid out for benefits such as ferry and medication, however, the allocated budget of $18 million will remain the same.
“But remember, the pension can be increased but it will be $18million,” he said.
“There will be many ways to do it for example one of the ways is to put up the age, which means instead of 65 we can increase to 75 years old for an elderly to be entitled to the pension.”
“The pension has made some families lazy as they sit around waiting for the payouts.”
“O lea o le a nofonofo ma fa’alagolago i le penisiona, ma ua ua foliga mai o le a fai ma se fa’amoemoe e fa’apaiē ai le toatele o fanau.”
He said the objective of the pension is to help the elderly, and therefore the idea has its advantages.
The Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti revealed in Parliament that his Ministry is conducting a research, to explore ways to restructure the scheme, if that is what is needed.
Tuilaepa added that some people are double dipping, “Some of our elderly, they receive pensions from New Zealand and yet they also collect it here. So we can look at that too”.
“That’s what I mean by we can have the increase but it will still total up to $18million.”
“We can also cut the free ride on the ferry, and free medication from the hospital or seeing the doctor for free.”
“That way if they want to go to Savaii then they will have to use their pension to pay for their ferry fares, it’s the same at the hospital for getting their medication.”
The Prime Minister did reiterate that all of these discussions are just ideas being explored, and nothing has yet been finalised.
“E le fa’apea la ua ioe le kapeneta ae o le taimi lenei o lo’o iai le upu foi lele “thinking out loud.”
“Tusa o lea ua leotele ou mafaufauga ua le tu’ua i totonu ae ua amata ona fa’asau i lou leo.”