Some members of the Pensioners Bondholders Forum on Monday picketed the Ministry of Finance, demanding exemption from the Government’s Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP).
They, among other things, appealed to government to not “push pensioners into their early graves” and “not make them destitute” as “pensioners have paid their dues to the nation.”
The forum also said that they had no alternative source of income as they relied on their bond yields to cater for basic needs such as medical care, rent and utility bills.
These messages were carried on placards during the hour and half long event which started at about 0930hours.
About 50 members, some of whom carried their walking aids and chairs to the venue, sang songs such as the national anthem and Osibisa’s “Woyaya” to send messages of nationalism and justice.
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, addressed the leadership of the forum where he explained that the current economic crisis demanded citizens to help government as government met conditions to secure International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout by March this year.
He said moving the maturity period of bonds from 12-15 years to 5 years for pensioners and the reduction of average returns on bonds from 18 and half percent to 15 per cent was a contribution pensioners must make to improve the economy.
“The fight that we are presumably having is the difference between 15 and 18 per cent…the fact of the matter is that, if we don’t get our debt programme in order, inflation that we have will be worse than before,” the Minister said.
In response to the Ministers remarks, Madam Kokui Adu, a convener, said the precarious situation of pensioners in the country made them vulnerable to any changes to their source of livelihoods.
She said pensioners in trying not to be a burden on society took up bonds with maturity objectives to match life plans.
“We look at it from what terms we accepted when we took up bonds that were issued. And if we are haggling over 3 per cent, that should tell you that it means so much to us and we are asking for you to totally exempt us from this programme,” she said.
Dr Adu Anane Antwi, the Convener for the forum, in an interview, said the pensioners would picket the premises daily until the Government agrees to exempt pensioners from the programme. He said the use of average returns on bonds as a basis for reducing the returns was problematic as it adversely impacted the returns of pensioners, adding that, “if you have 30 per cent as coupon, you are now going to get 15 per cent and half of your money is gone.”
“Government knows that all workers who have pension fund must also contribute but government exempted them and so there is no difference for what you have done for active workers who you are protecting their pensions money and why not protect people who are not active,” he said.