Economy Minister Chris Cardona this week presented amendments to the pension reform Bill which aims to shorten the time that parliamentarians must serve in Parliament to receive a pension, among other things.
For years citizens have been warned of the imminent ‘pensions’ time bomb’ but it seems that MPs are busy building their own bunkers just in case the bomb goes off.
Currently MPs who serve for a minimum of two terms receive the full two-thirds of their salary as their pension, which is also increased according to the actual salaries of holders of a political office.
MPs are only eligible for their parliamentary pension once they turn 65 but, unlike us common mortals, they are allowed to retain their parliamentary or ministerial pension in addition to their social security pension.
According to Newsbook, Cardona’s amendments do not only propose that MPs will be eligible for a pension after serving only one term but if these amendments are approved, as they will undoubtedly be, the pension will be extended to MEPs who already earn a handsome salary and are also guaranteed a pension from Brussels.
For years politicians insisted on the need to increase the pensionable age to 65 because citizens dare to live longer and the State will only be able to afford a minimum safety net pension. Workers, self-employed and small business owners are repeatedly told by the people elected to serve them they can no longer take comfort in a national insurance contribution to guarantee them an adequate livelihood.
Yet, they are rarely told that MPs are the only citizens who get an uncapped pension. Malta’s part-time MPs earn over €21,000 a year and ministers and parliamentary secretaries also have their uncapped pensions assured, based on their salaries which at present stands at over €51,000.
If the proposed changes to parliamentary salaries go through, MPs who opt to be full-timers will earn up to €60,000 per year while those who opt to remain part timers will see their honoraria rise to €30,000.
In addition, the Prime Minister’s salary could increase by almost 90 per cent to over €94,000 a year while the President’s salary would be rounded up to €95,000, and Ministers, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition would earn over €70,000.
Therefore, an MP who serves one term as a full timer could end up receiving a pension of €40,000 over and above the social security pension.
Politicians often justify their position of privilege by insisting that they dedicate most of their time to their parliamentary work, to the detriment of their families and their health. Others complain of being treated like a “prostitute.”
There’s no doubt about the dedication of many MPs but the same could also be said of many other professions. Police officers need to wait 25 years for a miserly pension. Teachers, nurses, shop owners, clerks, waiters, salespersons and all the rest must pay National Insurance contributions for an average of 35 years to be eligible for a pension.
Politicians are a different breed. It seems that five years in parliament is enough to justify a second pension (a third or fourth if you have also served as an MEP or President of the Republic).
Last year the Central Bank of Malta warned that without further measures encouraging people to work longer over and above 65 years of age, government may have no option but to decrease spending or raise taxes to finance its sizeable pension bill within just 10 years.
But the Labour administration has all but excluded introducing a second pillar pension – a scheme which runs in parallel to the existing state pensions and is funded by workers and employers. The so-called Labour Party has caved in to the demands of employers and big business and instead is championing private pensions, which however is out of reach for many workers.
Seemingly, there’s only one way to avoid being left behind. Expect the ballot sheet in the next general election to be 6 metres long as the best bet to ensure an adequate livelihood beyond the age of 65 is to contest elections with the aim of seeing out one solitary term on the uncomfortable green chairs in parliament.
It is well worth the sacrifice.