Guyanese expats ineligible for old age pension

Unless Guyanese living abroad decides to repatriate, they would not be entitled to Old Age Pension under a new measure that the Guyana government has recently put in place. This is according to Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence who clarified after a firestorm by Guyanese at the announcement, that persons will only be eligible for Old Age Pension if they satisfy the age, citizenry, and residency requirements.

Minister Lawrence, further made clear, that Old Age Pension of which she refers, is not an entitlement from employment such as Government Pension or National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Pension, but instead a monthly payment given to eligible Guyanese who have reached the age of 65.

Some 8,000 Guyanese living outside of Guyana are benefitting from the monthly old age pension payments, said Minister Lawrence, who stated that expatriates are “double dipping” adding that the overseas-based Guyanese would return home yearly to get the benefit of which they are ineligible, short-changing those at home who need the pension money.

Social media and news outlets in Guyana blew up with negative comments, because many Guyanese were not clear as to which Old Age Pension the minister was referring, since thousands of expatriates receive National Insurance Scheme and Government Pensions, and were outraged that the government was taking away their entitlement.

However, Minister Lawrence clearly outlined the benefit, stating that a pensioner must satisfy the proper authority, and have been a citizen of Guyana for at least 10 years immediately preceding claim for pension.

In addition, this pensioner must have being residing in Guyana during the 20 years immediately preceding his or her claim for pension.

According to the statement from the Ministry of Social Protection: “Persons receiving Old Age Pension may become ineligible if that person is a resident in a charitable institution that provides board and lodging; is in prison or has migrated.”

It is in this context that the minister of Social Protection has sought to reinforce the laws, stating that persons, whether they worked in Guyana or not, who are now living overseas are ineligible for Old Age Pension in Guyana.

The policy that both the previous and current government has followed to date dictates that persons applying for Old Age Pension must have been living in Guyana for at least two years preceding their application, said the statement.

“It is precisely this approach that was highlighted by the recently conducted audit as erroneous, since the law actually prescribes that the Old Age Pension applicant “must have been ordinarily resident in Guyana during the twenty years immediately preceding his [her] claim for pension,” said Minister Lawrence.

According to the Ministry of Protection website, the ministry will be digitizing the pension system to make it more efficient in identifying redundancies in the system. The digitized database will also indicate to the ministry, persons who are authorizing others to collect their pensions, which is an indication that they are not in Guyana.

The digitalizing of the pension database will also see greater accountability within the pension system, and probation officers will have more time to do additional fieldwork and conduct visitations.

The Social Protection Ministry has engaged the Ministry of Public Telecommunications to ensure that the two agencies can collectively run a pilot of this electronic project.

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