What a mess the authorities have made of the issue of the multiple pensions over the years. We are now at the point at which someone who had been a civil servant, a deputy and a minister would be eligible for three state pensions, that amount to five or six times the average wage.
There are even people like the president, who has been collecting a state pension since the age of 45 as a reward for leaving the civil service and pursuing a political career. Deputies and mayors can take a full state pension at 60, even after five years in the job, in contrast with the rest of the population that has to wait until 65. Ordinary workers that decide to retire at 63 have to accept a 12 per cent penalty. It is very much a case of some people are more equal than others.
Reacting to the public outcry a few weeks ago, deputies tabled four bills aimed at rationalising the state pension chaos, which resulted from a combination of self-serving provisions in law, ineptitude at the Legal Services and peculiar rulings by the courts. It was ironic that Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, who is no legal expert, pointed out the existence of a law from 1980 that was very clear about pension entitlements and has widely been ignored by Legal Services in pension cases. As Michaelides pointed out, the failure to amend the 1980 law meant that it was still in force.
After all this confusion, deputies at the House finance committee decided it would be best to wait for the government to draft a bill, in consultation with the Legal Service (not something that inspires much confidence), that would put things in order. They were afraid that the bills they had prepared may be deemed unconstitutional by the courts. But this could be the fate of a bill that has been drafted by the Legal Service as well, although it may take longer – some multiple pensioner could appeal against the decision to deprive them of a couple of their pensions and the court could uphold it.
There have been peculiar decisions taken by the courts. The administrative court, for example, ruled that a civil servant’s wage is a personal asset that cannot be reduced by the employer! This was based on an earlier ruling that pensions are a personal asset which the beneficiary cannot be deprived of – they all can be part of the pensioner’s assets portfolio. Given the earlier rulings of the courts – always in favour of the multiple pensioners – it is difficult to see the inequities being tackled. And would deputies vote for a law that pushes back their pensionable age by five years?
Somehow it is unlikely the beneficiaries of early or multiple pensions would give up these privileges because there was a fuss for a few days on social media.