The Pensions (Public Service) Act, 2017, which is intended to reform pension arrangements in the public sector, was passed yesterday by the Upper House with 62 amendments.
This follows weeks of delays in completing the debate in the Senate, as opposition members asked for more time to allow the Government and unions representing public-sector workers to complete dialogue on certain provisions in the statute.
A companion measure, An Act to Amend the Constitution of Jamaica to provide for circumstances in which pensions, gratuities and other allowances may be paid out of a fund, established by law, other than the Consolidated Fund, was also approved by the Senate.
Opposition Senator Lambert Brown abstained when members of the Upper House voted on the second bill in keeping with the passage of a constitutional measure. Seventeen members on both sides of the political divide approved the bill, while three senators were absent.
When the Pensions (Public Service) Act, 2017 was being examined at the committee stage, both Senator Mark Golding and Senator Brown wanted to know why a particular clause was included in the bill. The Clause stated that the Pension Fund shall not be established until the finance minister is satisfied that the debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio has reached 60 per cent.
Responding, Kamina Johnson Smith, leader of government business in the Senate, said that the fund could be established before the debt-to-GDP ratio reaches 60 per cent. The targeted year to achieve that milestone is financial year 2025-26.
“The fact is that the Government is hoping that we will actually be in a position to be able to set up the fund even earlier than that, but it is a function of the broader circumstances,” said Johnson Smith.
Senator Brown noted that the trade unions had insisted on the need for the establishment of a segregated fund in which pension payments would be made.
“I can’t see why if the debt-to-GDP ratio is 63 or 61, the minister should be constrained in setting up the fund.”