Naparima MP Rodney Charles has described as feeble, obfuscatory and unacceptable the reasons given last Friday in Parliament by Finance Minister Colm Imbert for late payment of terminal benefits to public servants and former diplomats who served under the last administration.
The challenges of survival for these former government employees and ex diplomats, Charles said in a release, have worsened over the last two years given cost of living increases as a result of stringent measures imposed by the governement such as VAT on a range of new items, impending property taxes, hikes in vehicular fuel costs, proposed increases in water and electricity rates and sundry other impositions with cost implications.
Taxpayers will pay millions on salaries for staff of the Ministry of Finance responsible for disbursing pension benefits yet those who leave the service have to wait years to get their terminal benefits. Some die before receiving any. This is unacceptable and continues a PNM tradition of utter disdain for senior citizens, Charles alleged.
While the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government increased pension grants, by contrast, when one compares year on year disbursement of pension grants, there has been a $400 million decrease this year compared to 2016, despite increases in the size of the senior citizen cohort. Charles noted Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s response to questions alluded to possible delays resulting from work stoppages as a result of OSH issues and also to poor record keeping especially for those who worked in several ministries during their careers. “I know of a former principal of the Siparia East Secondary School who worked his entire career in the Education Ministry who died 3 years ago while in service and to date his estate has not been paid terminal benefits” says Charles. Nearly all diplomats who served the country with distinction during the last PP government have, after two years, not been paid one black cent in terminal benefits.
“This is not rocket science,” Charles said. “My own experience is that I was paid terminal benefits in 2015 mere months after resigning as UN ambassador, fortunately under a PP administration.”
It is either the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not passed on the necessary files which deal with less than five years of service of diplomats in only one ministry, or the Ministry of Finance is extremely slothful in finalizing the necessary calculations and effecting payments, or they see this as an expense that can be deferred in order to balance the books, or this represents merely another case of pure political victimization against those perceived to have links with the UNC, he said.