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The Senate on Friday (Dec.19) approved an amendment to Section 9 of the Retiring Allowances Legislative Service Act, to facilitate payment of a pension to Parliamentarians, who opt out of the pension scheme for civil servants, by requesting and securing contribution refunds.
Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Dwight Nelson, who piloted the Bill, explained that the amendment to the Act will allow those legislators to find a way to repay the refunded contributions and as such, become eligible for a pension.
“It goes without saying many legislators have forgone professions, have made sacrifices and have taken substantial reductions in compensations and income, simply to serve in the Parliament in an atmosphere of great ingratitude. Having sacrificed and having served, we cannot allow them to languish in a situation of inability to provide for themselves and that is the fundamental intention of this Bill,” Senator Nelson stated.
Section 4 of the Retiring Allowances Legislative Service Act requires a legislator to contribute to the Consolidated Fund, a prescribed percentage of the salary payable to him, in order to facilitate retirement allowances and awards under the Act.
Senator Nelson noted that at present, the Act allows the legislator, who has completed a term and presumably with no intention of returning, to request from the appropriate Ministry, a complete refund of the pension contributions.
“But, the Act also states that… if per chance that legislator was to serve again in the Parliament and complete a full term, then that legislator. would not be entitled to pension benefits because the refund that he or she would have received for his first term contributions would in fact not allow him to meet the service qualification,” he pointed out. This provision, he said, has caused “hardships on persons.”
Opposition Senator, Mark Golding, stated that the amendments being made are “something we should support, because I don’t see why anyone would want to prevent a legislator, who decides to serve again, from having the benefits to whatever retirement allowances the system gives him.”