Minister for Labour, Employment and Youth Development Gaudencia Kabaka

Getting old will no longer be a nightmare in Tanzania, because the government intends to launch a special income system for aged people, it was disclosed here over the weekend.

Closing the three-day, second conference for the members of the National Social Security Fund, the Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr Gaudencia Kabaka, explained that early steps towards establishing the “old age benefits” have started and soon special delegations will be dispatched to countries that have already formed such funds to learn how to go about the process.

The Old Age Security programme, according to the minister, will become a very important part of Tanzania’s retirement income system, with benefits including the basic Old Age Security pension, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and a number of other allowances.”But the most challenging thing will probably be to identify who exactly qualifies to be regarded as ‘Old Person,’with special emphasis on those without any other means of living, without hope or relatives to rely upon,” said the Minister.

She said the government was very much committed to improve the welfare of its people and so far the state wants to rescue aged people who may face premature deaths due to tough living conditions, lack of hope and depression from the assumption that they have nothing to contribute to the society and perhaps no one cares for them.

“If elders are assured of monthly income, no matter how little could be, it will be a source of consolation and their lives will change and the renewed hope may save many others from age-related stress. It is important to remove the feelings of a gloomy future,” she pointed out.

Under the new proposed “old age” security system the state may need to review what age bracket that the beneficiaries are expected to fall into in order to be eligible.Mr Ansgar Mushi a researcher with the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA) said one of the roles of pension schemes in the country was to cushion the population from economic crunch, risk and poverty something that hasn’t exactly been achieved.

The government’s move follows the realization that, just 1.3 million out of the country’s 43 million population is covered under the existing pension schemes (NSSF, PPF, PSPF and LAPF) the other 41 million with uncertain futures.Also the existing Social Security Schemes in the country so far seem to just cater for those in formal employment, ignoring the informal sectors, especially agriculture, despite the fact that the latter employs over 80 per cent of Tanzanians.

Earlier on the Second Vice President of Zanzibar, Ambassador Seif Idd, who opened the meeting, pointed out that at the moment the informal sector in urban areas alone can immediately provide 900,000 new members of pension schemes if only somebody could educate them on the potential benefits.

By MARC NKWAME, Tanzania Daily News

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