There are a few discrepancies of pensions both in the civil service and the private sector and not all the retired people draw the same scale which is causing hardships to the lower end receiving less monthly payments.
For example, those who retired before 2011 get 80 per cent of the basic salary while the ones who retired after that year enjoy 80 per cent of the gross. The huge difference is causing considerable financial misalignment between the two categories of the pensioners in the civil servants.
A typical example, for the same job and grade, a pensioner prior to 2011 receives RO 660 while the retiree after this year enjoys RO 950 per month.
Obviously the inequality span between the two pensions is wide. Many of those who took their retirement before the year 2011 find it hard to make ends meet due to the inflation in the last seven years. Official statistics show that inflation in Oman since 2010 has increased at an average rate of 10 per cent. It goes without saying that the earlier pension is inconsistent with the inflation while pensioners of the new retirement scheme are very comfortable with the annual inflation threshold.
It is about time to introduce “top-up schemes” for people in the old pension scheme. It will allow to boost up their retirement package to get them out of the struggling zone.
This transition will also help to equalise the two categories and make it affordable to all pensioners. While at the same time making their lives comfortable in their old age after serving 30 to 40 years for their country without feeling they are being treated less than the rest.
But in general terms, pensioners in Oman miss out many benefits compared to other countries. For example, earlier this year, the government introduced a subsidised petrol price for low income workers. Pensioners need these incentives since they have to make do with a low monthly income. There are a host of other incentives pensioners can benefit.
Exemption of parking fees, lower car registration payment, discounted electricity and water bills to mention a few. Pensioners can have ID cards to prove that they have retired.
Most countries have these facilities for over 60s and Oman should not be left behind. Official statistics also show that the rate of Omani pensioners is at the modest pace of 8 per cent per year in the last decade.
That means the country does not produce a big number of pensioners compared to other areas in the world. Oman has only 88 pensioners per 1,000 people compared to 292 per 1,000 in the United Kingdom. It is a very young country. It shows that a special financial incentive to equalise pensions or allow them discounts for their daily activities is not going to cost a lot of money.
This will also reduce the financial burden of their children to look after their aging parents when they are old. Normally in Oman, parents are looked after by their children and that can incur a substantial cost for them if the parents’ pensions are meagre. The other thing which is missing here in Oman, not all pensioners want to do nothing after the age of 60.
As a matter of fact, apart from Oman and fellow GCC countries, 65 is the age generally accepted for retirement. So it remains that retirement starts early here.
At the age of 60, some pensioners want to continue working as consultants but currently there are few available opportunities for that. Again, for most pensioners, life after retirement here can be like a bereavement.
They have a lot to offer professionally but the access is very much limited. Consultation work does not only help their limited income but put back a sparkle in their lives. On a brighter note, pensioners can bridge the gap of experience by training new, young recruits. The pay they get as consultants can go a long way to offset their low income.
SALEH AL SHAIBANY