A nation that has little regard for the welfare of vulnerable groups, including the aged, retirees and working women, is not worth dying for.
When policies are, particularly, generated in that regard largely for the comfort of only advantaged groups, that nation loses any reason for existence in these modern times.
That may be why the New Patriotic Party, from the time of President JA Kufuor till date, has been striving to deepen policy on social protection for the aged. Again, that may be the reason why social protection programmes like Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) have been around for a while now.
Effectual social protection for workers who come on retirement was, therefore, the reason why the state rolled out the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) scheme for workers in the formal economy. It was also the rationale, later, behind giving the policy some tinge of inclusivity by setting up a scheme for the over 85 percent of workers found in informal economy.
Indeed, when our government had private sector actors joining the space to promote inclusivity, the idea was still to make retired workers in both the formal and informal economies moderately comfortable.
It appears that, after over half a century of implementation, the real meaning of social protection, and for which SSNIT and allied financial institutions were created, has been lost on us as a nation through unfair implementation of an otherwise healthy national welfare scheme.
That was the point succinctly expressed by the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress, who laments that the real beneficiaries are still the huge minority of ‘politically-connected’ office holders, who by virtue of their positions, enjoy handsome perks, including travels outside for medical attention.
While nobody begrudges accomplished or elevated citizens for what is due them, it is rational and natural to expect that the strong reminds himself of a natural obligation to support the weak – and not take advantage of him.
Reports therefore that some Ghanaians take a paltry GHC300 per month as pensions should embarrass all of us, particularly the politician, who virtually lacks nothing in life when he becomes privileged to join the league of elevated African citizens.
Retiring at 60 and going through the next 20 years of life can be excruciating, without an effectual national social protection programme.
The seriousness of the situation is reflected in the presence and activity of several dubious insurance companies that take premiums from traders and give back to them less than what they invest with them in premiums.
That is aside of the recurring instances of people signing onto schemes and not following up to chase their claims because of poor or zero reporting systems between companies and clients inherent in the sector.
It is a combination of such official inequities that, in our opinion, compels the nation’s labour front to agitate for reforms that truly benefit the huge chunk of ordinary citizens who retire only to return home wretched and punctured.
The Daily Statesman can only support the unions in the knowledge that social protection is optimally meant to benefit the ordinary citizen and our vulnerable communities. But we also do that because politics is about service to the weak and disadvantaged in society.
We believe that when the labour front agitate for equitable access to social protection, they have in mind as well the teeming numbers of informal economy actors who they are unionising for the desired change and effect.
It is in that regard that the Daily Statesman calls for a speedy study and implementation of existing proposals by the labour front aimed at an alignment of the social security policy and space in the country, for the benefit of ordinary citizens.