Napuat criticises lack of consultation on retirement age change

The former Internal Affairs Minister says the public should have been consulted before an amendment was passed by the Parliament this week raising Vanuatu’s retirement age.

On Wednesday, the Vanuatu Parliament passed an amendment to extend Vanuatu’s retirement age from 55 to 60 years.

The amendment was put forward by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau, under the Bill for Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act No. of 2020 that had been tabled by the Prime Minister Bob Loughman.

However, the Tanna MP and former Internal Affairs Minister, Andrew Napuat, says the amendment done should have gone through public consultation and comment before it was passed by Parliament.

MP Napuat says the change should have looked at the life expectancy of the people of Vanuatu. He says consultation should have taken place on whether people could stay healthy up to the new 60 years of age and still enjoy their retirement benefits.

“We should make consultations on every necessary change that will affect the workforce and employment in Vanuatu,” Mr Napuat said.

“One of these key changes is the extension to the retirement age. I think we should have really considered this with our health status and have got some medical opinion that could allow us to make these changes,” he said.

“I understand other countries have extended their [retirement age] but their life expectancy and health conditions are different from ours in Vanuatu.

“What we passed here must be relevant to our lifestyle in Vanuatu and to the context of Vanuatu.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs says the reason the amendment had been passed was because of the development Vanuatu is going through.

He says with the development of the country’s health service, there is a huge opportunity for people to live longer.

“In fact, we have known many people who can still be in service longer,” Mr Kalsakau said.

“I have seen from the last retired soldiers of the Vanuatu Mobile Force and Police Force, they could have been working but they have retired so early.

“Therefore I made the decision and it was agreed to by the Government.”

When asked about whether or not the change will affect the number of young graduates entering the work force, Mr Kalsakau said a government must never sleep.

“It does not mean that we’ll all be doing one job and there will not be enough jobs for everyone. We have to create more jobs so people have opportunities,” he said.

The Finance Minister, Johnny Koanapo, says it is the Government’s responsibility to look at workers’ entitlements following the retirement age amendment.

The retirement age extension will come into effect once it is gazetted into State Law.

All the bills that were passed on Wednesday and Thursday were passed by the 29 Government MPs when the 22 Opposition MPs were on suspension, following their earlier one-day boycott of the Parliament.

The Opposition MPs will resume sitting in Parliament on Friday.

The first ordinary sitting of Parliament will end Friday.

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