Pension rule change draws fire

Pension rule change draws fire

Elderly face limits on who gets welfare

An elderly woman rests near the Hua Lamphong railway station in Bangkok. (Bangkok Post file photo)
An elderly woman rests near the Hua Lamphong railway station in Bangkok. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Critics have slammed the outgoing government for issuing a new regulation imposing income limits on the elderly receiving monthly allowances.

They say it should be left to the incoming government to decide on the matter while accusing the outgoing government of inefficiently categorising income groups.

The new regulation was signed by Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda and published in the Royal Gazette on Friday and became effective on Saturday.

The old regulation was for local administration organisations to pay universal monthly allowances of 600-1,000 baht to all elderly people, with 600 baht for people aged 60-69, 700 baht for people aged 70-79, 800 baht for people aged 80-89, and 1,000 baht for people aged 90 years and older.

Item 6 (4) of the new regulation states that from Saturday, only elderly people with no income or insufficient income to cover the cost of living are entitled to the monthly allowance from the state.

However, Item 17, a provisional clause in the new regulation, states that the new criterion for payment of the elderly allowance does not apply to people who registered for the allowance with local bodies before Aug 12, 2023, meaning those currently receiving the allowance are not affected.

Chaithawat Tulathon, secretary-general of the Move Forward Party (MFP), said the party disagrees with the new criterion.

"Everyone is entitled to welfare benefits. It is not about trying to prove people's poverty. Changing a policy regarding welfare benefits is a major issue as it affects many people. It should not be carried out while a new government has not taken office yet," he said.

"Whoever becomes the new prime minister should revise the new regulation," Mr Chaithawat said while insisting that the party favours universal welfare coverage.

Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, an MFP list-MP, said the new criterion had replaced universal coverage for the elderly.

It will severely impact people reaching 60 in the future, he said. People turning 70, 80 or 90 looking forward to the larger allowance will also wonder if they will get it.

In addition, he said, it was unclear whether people turning 60, who still have enough income to live on and are not entitled to the allowance under the new criterion and who later find they cannot make ends meet, will be able to register for the allowance.

Mr Wiroj said Thailand now had about 11 million people aged 60 and older. If payment of the elderly allowance were based on the database for state-welfare cardholders, only 5 million would be entitled to the allowance.

The other 6 million would be left out in the cold by the government, he said.

"The database is unreliable. This information cannot be used as a criterion for paying the elderly allowance," he said.

The MFP MP said Section 11 (11) of the Elderly People Act stipulates that payment of the elderly allowance must be made monthly and be universal and fair.

The requirement for the elderly to prove their poverty may prevent them from receiving state welfare, which breaches this law.

Mr Wiroj said people affected by this change could petition the Administrative Court. The MFP pledged a monthly allowance of 3,000 baht to all elderly citizens during campaigning for the general election.

Sustarum Thammaboosadee, a lecturer at Thammasat University's college of interdisciplinary studies, said that all elderly people should be entitled to universal welfare coverage.

Wannaphong Durongkaveroj, an economics lecturer at Ramkhamhaeng University, said that local authorities could not rely on the state-welfare card database to identify who is eligible for the allowance.

He said they must instead hold surveys in their localities before implementing the new regulation.

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