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Their reward ought to be on earth too

Sometimes it appears reason, reasonableness and common sense escape our political leaders and legislators, and that they do precious little in making the effort to find these fugitive qualities, and much less in taking any advice on how they might get these attributes back in their company.

Ironically, the counsel often comes from among themselves; so their inertia may have more to do with stubbornness and recalcitrance than with any disability and mental challenges –– a state that smacks of irreconcilable differences between being the people’s representatives and being their oppressors. Surely, after ten years, our political directorate –– Government and watchdog Opposition –– must recognize the incongruity and folly
of taxing the pensions of retirees.

In the Upper House on Wednesday, Independent Senator Tony Marshall had need to lament publicly again this absurdity.

“It is inequitable,” he said, “for  persons more so in the evening of their days to be called upon to pay income tax on NIS pensions.”

The inanity was first pointed out by the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) back in 1999 –– well over a decade ago.

The retired banker himself Mr Marshall, addressing the Senate during debate on an amendment to the Income Tax Act that primarily offers incentives for renewable and alternative energy initiatives, observed
a provision that would exempt BARP itself from the payment of tax.

“However,” he bemoaned, “the framers of the legislation have, perhaps due to the absence of direction from the minister, unfortunately overlooked, or deliberately ignored the perennial prayer of the BARP leadership on behalf of its 38,000-strong membership of those who qualify by way of legal age, being in receipt of a pension triggered by that age towards which they have contributed from earnings taxed with relentless venom.”

A mouthful, yes; but the point is made. And we join with the goodly senator –– and BARP –– in demanding the minister responsible for the NIS (we might even beseech him) ensure that when next there is an amendment to the Income Tax Act to be introduced in Parliament that the pensions exemption is included.

In fact, we go further. We are insisting that the next Income Tax Act amendment itself ought to be the exemption of tax on NIS pensions. How does a Government –– Democratic Labour Party-led or Barbados Labour Party-driven –– ignore so vital a concern like this for more than a decade? And then boast about caring for its country’s seniors?

Of course, Barbados is not the only place that would sponge off its retirees. In Britain where pensions are already levied on, there was a recommendation not very long ago for retirees to be taxed even more –– and have their benefits cut too –– to accommodate the achievements
of young people.

To his credit, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has rejected the suggestions from his Social Mobility And Child Poverty Commission that
in a nutshell argued these gains from the old would go towards improving the living standards of the young and young poor. This commission would have its country’s senior citizens who would have already paid their dues
to society make sacrifices all over again.

Why should the old and retired not live out their twilight years with peace of mind and in state of comfort for which they had laboured all their lives? In obviously emotive misguidedness this British commission figured that “the low-paid” –– primarily among the youth –– were the “forgotten people of Britain”, and the older folk ought to be made to bear more of the burden of the austerity that now envelops the United Kingdom in the name
of the young.

This Social Mobility And Child Poverty Commission further argued that working families were suffering too much of the country’s debt burden and that the young could no longer expect to achieve the same quality of life
as their middle class parents had done.

Mr Clegg, to his credit again, had to explain to the commission that “punishing pensioners isn’t going to help a single child achieve more in life”. Furthermore, what of the residual imagery left in the minds of these same young people that there is no guarantee of contentment, amenity, comfort and assuagement for you in old age, even though you will have laboured hard and long for it; sacrificed for it all your life?

Neither in Britain nor in Barbados, or anywhere else should the cost of former or present Governments’ failures –– whether by budget overspending, uncontrolled borrowing, educational underachievement
at a high price, unwise investments, or questionable housing stock –– be remotely thrust upon those who have already given their all to their country. Not our senior citizens for whom most would find it difficult changing their financial plans since their options are likely to remain static and very limited.

No Government has the right to deny its older people the option of living with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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