ONE of the most common and significant needs raised by MPs while presenting their 2013 constituency reports is the call for reduction in the age of elderlies eligible for the Government’s social benefit scheme.
One of the recommendations put forward by Tongatapu 8 MP SioneTaione's report is for Government to reduce the eligibility age from 75 to 70.
Current beneficiary of the scheme are 75 years of age and above.
Ha’apai 12 MP Mo’ale Finau told Parliament most parliamentary visit reports have made similar recommendation although no compelling reasons were given.
He said according to the World Health Organization the average life expectancy for the Tongan women is 70 and 69 years for men.
Finau said Tonga’s social scheme benefit rewards those that are already dead.
When Tongatapu 4 constituency MP ‘Isileli Pulu raised the issue last week the Finance and National Planning Minister, Hon. Lisiate ‘Akolo said around TOP$ 2 million are allocated in the budget for the scheme. He maintained such proposal is not possible.
“It would be easier for Government to increase the amount allocated for the recipient. If we are to reduce the age from 75 to 70 or 65 we are talking TOP$5-7 million. That I believe we could not afford,” said the Hon. Finance and National Planning Minister.
Hon. ‘Akolo also called on people to kindly bear with what Government provides for this is its second year of operation.
He also told Parliament the social benefit scheme is a Government’s policy and have yet to become legislation.
Government launched its first ever national social benefit scheme last year that benefits elder lies TOP$65.00 a month.