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No gain for the retired in civil servant pay hikes

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Tawlawi : Despite recent pay increases for Burmese civil servants and government workers, thousands of retired staff have been left out of the increase in government pay.

On December 31st, 2009, the Burmese government Ministry of Finance and Revenue in Naypyidaw, announced in notification No.104/2010, that Burmese civil servant salaries would be increased by a flat rate of 20,000 kyat a month. However, the penitents of retired civil servants were not raised, according to the Ministry notification.

The lack of increase in pension funding has frustrated many retired government employees who remain in a lower pension bracket based on their old pay, while the salaries and subsequent pensions of those still employed, increased.

From 1989 to the present, the Burmese military government has raised civil servant salaries 5 times, 4 of which resulted in pension increases only for those not yet retired. Specifically salaries were raise in 1989, 1993, 2000, 2006 and most recently for the start of 2010.

According to a retired officer from the Myanmar Agriculture Service (MAS), which operates under the government Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, “The Burmese government [has] increased the salary for the current servants. But for the retired staff, the government has not increased [pensions] and [we] still face financial difficulty.”

All Burmese civil servants receive a pension upon retirement. However the payment of pensions is fixed, as it is based on an equation of the last salary received multiplied by the number of years served, and then divided over 70.

Pensions given are divided into three types:  a superannuation pension paid to civil servants who must retire regardless of years served due to their reaching an age cap of 60 years. For civil servants who serve over 30 years, but don’t have to retire due to age, can chose to take the service pension. The medical pension is for those who work a minimum of 10 years but are forced to retire early.

Due to the government method of basing salary on the last pay received, the benefits of pensions do not extend equally to all retired civil servants. Some civilian staff who have held the same position and worked the same number of years as other employees, do not receive the same benefits, based the arbitrary date set for pay increases, explained a retired manager from the Myanmar Permanent Planting Enterprise (MPPE).

The result is that for civil servants who spent their carrier working their way up in a job for many years and retired before the last pay hike – March 2006 – now receive significantly less pension pay, than those who retired in April 2006. At that time the pay of civil servants was raised 10 times.

In each case of the previous 4 pay increases for civil servants, commodity prices in Burma have also increased.

“I retired with a superannuation pension at 60 years old and with 36 years of service before March 2006. The last salary I got was 9,000 kyat so my pension is 4,700 kyat. But my retired friend from the same township level position retired in April 2006 when he turned 60 years old. He also served 36 years, but got a pension of about 47,000 kyat a month. My pension salary can’t buy me one Mandalay slipper [a type of leather sandal].”

Prior to the recent pay hike, and 2006 increase, the government raised civil servant salaries in April 2000. The pay of the above quoted manager increased from 6,000 to 9,000 kyat at that time.  The pay for a lower level civil servant increased from 900 Kyat to 4,200, and in April 2006 would have increased to 42,000 kyat per month.

For one civil servant who retired in 2007 with a salary 45,000 kyat, and who worked at the Cooperated Department that dealt in issues of economic management, the lack of increased pension money ultimately means survival is impossible without coming out of retirement. “The pension rate is does not benefit the retired people. Not just me, but everyone in the country who retired form the government. This rate does not work for us – [only] if we have property can we survive by living off of [that property].”

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