23 Oct 2013

Pensioners in Niue to receive payment boost

5:24 pm on 23 October 2013

Pensioners in Niue have been promised a 30 percent increase in their pensions.

The Premier of Niue, Toke Talagi, made the announcement during the country's 39th Constitution Day celebrations in Alofi on Sunday.

Beverley Tse was in Niue and spoke with local pensioners about the decision.

The news was well received by the retired folk who were present for the announcement at Fale Fono. The Premier of Niue, Toke Talagi, says there are two reasons behind the increase. The first is a response to New Zealand's recent decision to relax the pension rules for New Zealanders retiring to the realm countries.

"TOKE TALAGI: New Zealand has announced that they will change the pension rules to allow people who work in New Zealand, when they turn 65 to receive pensions in New Zealand. That's got to create some disadvantage for our old folks here. So we've got to try to keep up and catch up with some of the pensions that they will have."

He says the second is to do with Niue's small population of 1,500 people.

TOKE TALAGI: If we want to retain the population, this is one of the key things we need to do. It's not just for the pensioners, but it's also for the public servants who live here, as well as the people in the private sector. We've got to invest in those people and retain them.

From the age of 60, Niuean citizens are eligible to receive a pension of 230 (NZ) dollars a fortnight but the Premier says this will go up to 300 dollars a fortnight from the next pay period. One pensioner, Lofa Kulatea says the decision was unexpected.

LOFA KULATEA: It's a surprise because we wouldn't think of anything like that. We were not expecting it. But that's just made our day.

Alapasa Nemaia, who is 78, says she is glad about the increase but is also sceptical because a pension increase was announced several months ago but that has yet to come into effect.

ALAPASA NEMAIA: I think the Premier wants to increase it when they really... are going to vote again for him for another election. We heard on an assembly meeting they're going to increase that money for the old folks, but we wait and some of the old folks who have passed away never had that.

Another retired citizen, Atapana Siakemotu, says he believes the reason behind the delay is the government has been working to secure the amount needed to cover the increase and believes the latest announcement means the government has secured the funds to do so. He says the increase may be an incentive for people to retire in Niue.

ATAPANA SIAKEMOTU: If you are to look at the cost of living, items in the shops are pretty steep compared to what they are earning at the moment. So it's good. As he said, we try and invest in our people, keep them here. So if we keep the old people here, they won't depart out to New Zealand, then the young ones will come back. Or that's another theory of it, anyway.

The Premier, Toke Talagi, says the pension increase will cost the government half a million dollars annually. He says the government recorded a surplus in 2011 and 2012 which will help cover the cost of the increase, along with the government savings and profit from foreign business ventures.