The decision by the PF government to stubbornly retain the retirement age at 65 years despite their promise to reverse it to 55 years once elected is another clear case of ‘continuity with donchi kubeba’ syndrome.
The argument that they have no money to pay retirees at the moment is simply an admission of poor fiscal planning and a lack of vision. It is no secret that when people have jobs, they will one day retire.
Just this week alone, the PF government admitted to spending over K200 million on by-elections since 2011, not including additional money wasted during the campaigns. This amount, along with other areas where government continues to waste revenues, such as payment of a bloated Cabinet, would have gone a long way to off-set retiree benefits.
Our argument as the UPND is that the PF government is not doing enough to address the underlying issue of high unemployment, and by maintaining the retirement age at 65 our army of unemployed youths who are energetic, qualified and ready to take up these jobs, are left standing on the sidelines.
What is even worse is the PF has failed to create a conducive environment for the young and self-employed to succeed in private business and enterprise. The current unstable and uncertain economic situation is damaging to both local businesses and would-be entrepreneurs and comes as a direct result of government mismanagement and lack of vision.
Another impact of this latest reversal of policy and betrayal of their promises to the people, is the demoralization of employees at various levels who cannot advance in their careers, with spaces above them occupied by others who want to move on to other things.
The human aspect of this policy on retirees needs to be more fully considered by the PF government. In a country where the average life expectancy is 57 and there are plenty of young Zambians looking for work it is ludicrous to have a retirement age of 65. For those reaching 55, many be too tired to continue in their position, while others should be enabled to pursue other equally important interests in reward for their time in service.
As UPND, this is one policy we shall not hesitate to reverse once in office. Employment creation is a priority for us, as well as stabilizing the economy to enable small businesses to grow and flourish.