Bill set to freeze pensions
The bill set to freeze government employee pensions at current levels passed through its second reading in the House of Assembly on Friday afternoon.
With no Progressive Labour Party MPs in Parliament, the only opposition to the Pensions (Increase) Amendment and Suspension Act 2014 was voiced by Independent MP Terry Lister, who asked Government to hold debate over the bill until the next Parliamentary session.
However Government forged ahead with the bill — introduce by Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Bob Richards — aimed at freezing regular cost of living increases paid out to pensioners through the superannuation fund.
Introducing the bill, Mr Richards said the cost of living clause in the civil service pensions scheme added about 23 percent to pension costs on funds that were already only 33 percent funded.
OBA MP Glenn Smith on Friday said he rose “reluctantly” in support of the bill, while placing the blame on absent PLP shoulders.
“I say reluctant because it's always difficult to take something away from someone after explaining the reasons why we have to do it, particularly to the retirees that have contributed to this fund for numerous, numerous years,” he said.
“As they've done with everything they've touched — and unfortunately they're not here today — the PLP government paid out on the day without thinking or saving for tomorrow. Unfortunately for Bermuda, tomorrow has arrived,” added Mr Smith.
Minister of Public Works Patricia Gordon-Pamplin also spoke of the “difficult” decision.
“I know one of the major challenges we have always heard is, ‘Why are you always hitting the seniors?'
“ And I know that there is nobody more pained and having to suffer more angst than does the Finance Minister in having to bring this type of legislation in order to bring some sense of sensibility into the sustainability of the funds,” said Ms Gordon- Pamplin.
“So it's not something that even the Finance Minister, the Deputy Premier, or the Government takes lightly. This is a very, very difficult step.”