universal pensions in Myanmar

The good news is that Myanmar’s universal age pension will be launched in April. The bad news is that it will very likely be restricted to resident citizens aged 100 years and older instead of the initial promise of age 65 and older.

Dr San San Aye [deputy director general of the Department of Social Welfare] told The Myanmar Times in an exclusive interview last week that it [the universal pension] would be restricted initially to people aged over 100 because of insufficient funds. The plan has allocated K1.145 trillion (US$1.17 billion) for the social pension program in 2015-16, including existing civil service pensions.

“The pension amount was originally set in the plan at K25,000 [US$24.50] a month, but if it is limited to those over 100 years then they will almost certainly receive more than that,” she said, declining to state an exact figure.

Retired civil servants will receive the national pension in addition to their civil service pensions, said Dr San San Aye. She said the pension program was initially supposed to focus only on poorer people, but the government decided that the expense and complexity of means-testing made it cheaper and simpler to pay everybody. “Maybe K25,000 is not significant for the rich but it will be a good support for the poor,” she said. ….

Currently, Myanmar spends less than 0.5pc [of its GDP] on social protection and other services, the lowest in the ASEAN region. Almost all of that goes to civil service pensions.

Htoo Thant, “Budget concerns cripple pension expansion“, Myanmar Times, 15 January 2015.

Means-testing, I agree, is complex and costly. In addition, it stigmatises recipients. But elimination of civil service pensioners from the social pension is not complex, costly nor stigmatising.

The age of eligibility should be lowered from 100 to at least 70 or 75, even if it means some loss of universality.

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