FOR many decades now public service retirees in Zambia, like many other developing countries, have had to put up with late payment of their benefits.
Some retirees have had to go for years without receiving payment and others have even died out of depression.
Indeed for many, retirement has been a curse that has relegated them to old-age destitution.
We are, therefore, elated that Government, under President Lungu, has shown political will towards the plight of retirees.
Government has set aside K1.6 billion to go towards offsetting retirement benefits for former public service workers to mitigate their plight.
Indeed, this is good news and considering that it comes barely three weeks after Government disbursed K150 million to Local Authorities Superannuation Fund (LASF) to clear outstanding pension benefits to over 3,800 council retirees.
This is indeed evidence that Government is concerned about the plight of retirees and is therefore not sitting idly.
Ministry of Finance permanent secretary in charge of Budget and Economic Affairs Pamela Kabamba said Government has prioritised payment of retirees and, as such, the social protection sector will continue to receive serious attention in a bid to alleviate the plight of retirees.
“We have K1.6 billion that is going to pension payment to cover pensioners,” Ms Kabamba said.
Government should be commended for committing to restore the dignity of men and women who have served this country for so many years.
It is only befitting that these gallant men and women are accorded a chance to live comfortable lives after serving the nation for many years.
We are confident that the money disbursed will go a long way in helping retirees settle after leaving employment.
Putting money in the hands of retirees will also no doubt have spill-over benefits to the country as a whole.
For instance, when retirees are empowered, they will be able to participate in economic activities, thereby contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
It is also expected that they will be able to provide a decent life for their families, thereby reducing poverty levels in the country.
However, we would like to caution all the beneficiaries of the K1.6 billion and the K150 million to utilise the money prudently.
While Government is fulfilling its obligation of paying retirees their dues, they also have a responsibility to ensure that the money is utilised in the most prudent way to secure their future and that of their children.
We do not expect them to go on rampage spending money on luxurious things.
It is not time to be excited but to sober up and plan on how they are going to sustain themselves and their families now that they have left employment, if they did not do so while still working.
Some still have school-going children whose fees will constantly need to be paid. This should, therefore, motivate them to invest the money other than spend it on luxurious things.
It is our hope that Government will continue on this path and allocate more funds for social protection and payment of retirees to save our senior citizens from old-age destitution.