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Many Of The Old Die Before Their Time
Akora K.B. Asante

 The statistics show that we live longer. Observation supports this view. Sometimes we lose touch with the friend with whom we had such wonderful moments some time ago.

Then out of the blue we see the obituary in the papers. He or she is dead. Few stop to think about the last few years of the departed friend. Some time ago the family would look after him or her if necessary.

But even in the old days if the old man or woman is around for a long time, the patience of the family snaps. If the old person is a woman and mental disability such as dementia sets in she is often diagnosed as a witch.

The family should not have such a person around. She is sent to the special traditional doctor, shaved and given humiliating treatment. The men who stay at home do not fare much better. They are left alone for much of the time and taken out to “lie in the sun” now again.

Much has not changed in these modern times. The old who are poor are neglected and robbed of their dignity. Those with money (their own or their children’s) are looked after round the clock. Two nurses take turns to look after them. Even if incontinent, friends see them in dignified circumstances.

It is not so for those without the necessary means. We the people cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of the old. We shall all get there unless we are fortunate to die young in the prime of life.

Some years ago members of a pensioners’ association called on me to assist to plead with government to increase SSNIT payments to pensioners. I told them I would be pleased to assist but that it was not a matter of pleading and begging.

I said we should be prepared to suffer a little to fight for our rights. I maintained that SSNIT money was not government money but contributions by workers and would have accrued to workers if the SSNIT law did not exist. Therefore those who contribute should ensure that SSNIT funds are carefully invested and administered for the benefit of the contributors.

The old men were not prepared to demand that their money was looked after and invested with diligence. They would only plead and beg. I went to a few of their meetings and saw the old fade away. It was sad. But we should not only feel sorry for the old.

We should do something about it. We should not allow our traditional family concern for the old to fade away. We should see to it that our governments do their duty to the old who have done their bit to bring the nation this far. We should consider it our duty to ensure that pension schemes and other institutions established to make old age enjoyable work.

SSNIT in particular needs public attention. There was talk sometime ago about cutting it to bits so that its huge sums are better-managed. There was the suggestion that government or quasi-government institutions cannot operate successfully in the public interest. Such considerations by the lazy of thought and observation should not deflect us from the obvious path.

SSNIT can do far better than it does to invest profitably and thereby considerably improve pensions. Of course, SSNIT has a problem. The investment opportunities in the country are not many. There is not much apart from putting up buildings.

Government should create the investment opportunities. It should plan and not continue with the practice of thinking of projects and then finding investors preferably from outside. SSNIT can invest profitably in projects within an overall plan.

An institution in which I was involved invested in a government-sponsored cassava project not long ago. The institution lost heavily. This does not mean that the State should not be involved or sponsor projects. It meant either the concept or management or both were bad.

Ghanaians are capable of managing good projects. We should engage competent people irrespective of party or ethnic affiliations.

The youth should know that a stagnant economy does not guarantee good pensions. If they do not wish to die before their time in undignified circumstances they should not accept questionable economic policies, bad management and mediocre performance by State officials.

Pension schemes should work. SSNIT could do better. The old deserve better.

News Source : Vioce From Afar
Last updated at : 18 October,2012
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