The government is considering increasing pensions for 65 to 70-year-olds, to bring them in line with older people.
Deputy prime minister Mark Brown told Parliament Cook Islands were among the region’s most generous countries, in starting pension payments at 60. But they would look to go further.
“We should look at … having an additional allocation once you hit 65,” Brown said.
The 2019/20 Budget, introduced to Parliament this week, commits to increasing the pension for those aged more than 70 years. It will rise to $700 a month, from July 1, 2019.
But Opposition MP Tamaiva Tuavera said this discriminated against those aged from 60 to 69 years.
Brown, who is also the finance minister, said “eight years ago, the government declared that it would put more money in the pension particularly for those over 70 by increasing their allowance.
“It was this age group that really needed the support of the pension fund because many of them were no longer working – as opposed to those who are 60 years and over where a large percentage of them were working and earning income.
“Our goal is to hit $800 a month for those who are in the over-70 bracket.”
But he said Tuavera’s question was a good one, and “certainly worth considering” for 65 to 69 year-olds.
The government pension is not the only support for retired people in the Cook Islands, Brown pointed out.
He said the Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund would also help those in their retirement years.
“The difference between these two payments is that the government pension is paid out of the annual tax revenues, whereas the superannuation is paid out of contributions that you have made into your own superannuation fund along with your employer over an extended period of time,” Brown explained.
“As our population ages and as the superannuation fund matures, we will start to see our retired ones collecting two incomes.
“This is the beauty of looking at things with a long-term perspective and putting it into action early because it takes a while before you will reap those rewards in later years.”