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As cost of living rises, pensioners struggle to cope

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The spiralling cost of living has eroded the quality of life of those earning a small pension, and many have to eke out a living doing all kinds of jobs just to make ends meet, observes Benedict Lopez.

Pensioners are always a forgotten lot. I guess when you are no longer ‘productive’ to society, scant attention is paid to you even though you had contributed tremendously to the economic development and prosperity of the country.

I know many pensioners who have worked tirelessly with honesty, integrity and dedication for the country, the fruits of which are being enjoyed by all Malaysians. Many now feel, since they have faded into oblivion, society-at-large looks upon them apathetically.

And to add salt to their wounds, most people whom they knew when they were working and even those whom they had assisted, often suffer from selective amnesia when they meet them.

Many pensioners have been hurt by such colleagues whom they thought were their friends. One pensioner even remarked to me that if five out of 10 of your former colleagues just sent you an email or call you up once in a way for teh tarik after you retire, then you are pretty lucky.

Many pensioners out of pride and dignity do not like to be dependent on their children. It would go a long way in helping retired civil servants if pensions were calculated based on the gross earning of their last drawn salary as a civil servant, inclusive of all allowances earned.

Pensions are currently calculated based on the last drawn basic salary of a civil servant, excluding allowances.

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Of course, there had been adjustments made from time-to-time for pensioners. Since 2008, the maximum pension payable was increased from 25 to 30 years. With this increase, a pensioner is now paid 60 per cent of last drawn basic salary, instead of 50 per cent.

With the increases in prices of essential daily necessities, postal rates, taxi and bus fares, to name a few, pensioners are hard hit and many struggle to make ends meet every month. Those receiving small pensions feel the pinch more than those who retired in senior positions.

The spiralling cost of living has eroded the quality of life of those earning a small pension, and many have to eke out a living doing all kinds of jobs just to make ends meet.

The Post-Services Division (Pensions Division) should conduct a study and make its recommendations to the government on adjustments to pensions to reflect the rising cost of living.

A move such as this will go a long way towards creating a caring society.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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