Long-term SSS benefits for members

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

The latest news to crop up all over the headlines is the news about the President’s veto of the P2,000 raise in monthly pensions from the Social Security System. Despite the clamor for the increase, and even knowing what it could mean to several of our countrymen in need, I have to say that, in this instance, I completely agree with his position on the matter. This was a wise, albeit unpopular, choice and will save the SSS from bigger problems down the line.

Despite overwhelming clamor in Congress to override this veto, it does not really take a scientist to see that it won’t work. It all boils down to simple math. If you are promising to give out more than you can earn than it will only be a matter of time before the agency goes belly up or cripples itself in debt. At which point, everyone will suffer.

Ironically, one must question why those who pushed the amendment did not consider this when drafting it and presenting it for approval. After all, as I said, it doesn’t take years of study to realize that by increasing by P2,000 we are biting off more than we can chew. The short-term benefit is enticing to say the least, but it’s not at all sustainable. What happens when the fund runs out? Then everyone will be in need.

There is just so much about the proposed bill that needs to be further studied and investigated. The timing, for one, is already suspicious. This has been a problem for years now so why is it so suddenly being pushed into the spotlight right now? One can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with the upcoming elections. There have already been several articles that have accused lawmakers of thinking about themselves when pushing for this proposal. And I can definitely see their point. If the bill were to push through, the lawmakers behind it would look good to the public – to the voters. If it were to be vetoed by the President (as what happened) – they would still look good because, after all, they tried. The only one who would really look bad is Malacañang for refusing to help senior citizens who desperately need it. The President and his anointed successor Mar Roxas, that is, because people will just think Aquino does not care for senior citizens, and that would most likely mean that Roxas does not as well.

In a way, we truly also have to question the motives of those who are pushing for this proposed bill. It’s shortsighted to say the least, and they seem to utterly disregard the future of the SSS fund if the changes were to take place. Where would funding from this type of increase come from? This has not been adequately answered and it seem foolish to push forward with promises of payouts without any idea where the money will come from when the time comes.

Again, I think it was responsible for President Aquino to veto the bill at this time. While the plight of the senior population in the country is real, this is not the solution to their problems. It only gives them temporary relief. In the long run it will prove to be a bigger problem for them and for the 30 million other members of the SSS who rely on SSS benefits too and who are currently paying for their share in the fund now. We have to think about what is best for the multitude.

At the end of the day, I think the reason that everyone had reacted so badly to the President’s decision is that they feel it is heartless and that the president doesn’t want to help those in need. It’s a natural reaction – especially for those with beloved senior citizens in the family – but it’s important to know that this particular decision is truly what was best for everyone. We tend to forget that SSS is not funded by the government, but by us – the members. We fund SSS with our contributions and they depend on these payments and proper investments to be able to grow the fund to meet everyone’s needs.

Simply put, we can’t keep things at status quo and not expect a sudden spike in payouts not to affect the overall solvency of the fund. We can’t afford to make the commitment to increase monthly payouts without having a firm plan in place as to what will balance out the loss of these payouts. Which is to say that the proposed increase is not impossible, but it has to be studied far more carefully with corresponding proposals as to where the money will come from. Offhand an increase in SSS contributions is the first step required, but this is just step one. A solid action plan will need to be in place in order for this to truly work. Perhaps with an adjusted increase in contributions, we can begin with a lower increase for the meantime.

At the end of the day, despite the fact the President did make the right choice, we also still have to recognize the reason why an increase in SSS is such an important discussion. We can’t ignore the plight of our senior citizens. I truly understand how vital it is to help them in their twilight years. These are, after all, the citizens who worked hard their whole life and are now in need of a little help to make their latter years better. The problem, as a whole, goes beyond just SSS as our senior citizens in the Philippines really aren’t given much in terms of benefits.

Instead of just focusing on SSS, the government should see how else it can help seniors improve their quality of life. Sickness and health benefits should factor heavily into these decisions as the problems that most seniors face have to do with their health and with the heavy burden of paying for the majority of their healthcare, medicines, and etc. If the government can better address senior healthcare, then a big chunk of the problems most senior citizens face would already be answered. Not to mention, make adjustments on the age of forced retirement. After all, some seniors are still healthy and capable of working but are forced to stop by a certain age.

At the end of the day, SSS is not the one and only answer to improving the lives of our senior citizens. What is important is that the topic be addressed (and soon) as a whole. Contributions to senior improvement can come from several agencies that will work hand in hand to make lives better for our aging population.












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