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Pensioners sue British Government

Thai inflation rises for 5th consecutive month

Pensioners sue British Government

Colin Jarvis
On the 16th of March the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, will pass judgement in a case brought against the British government. The action was brought by a group of British pensioners who believe the British Government is treating then “unfairly”.

Why is this case being fought in the European Court of Human Rights? It is simply because the pensioners have been through all the other possible courts and this is the last Court of Appeal available to them.

Why do the pensioners feel that they are being treated unfairly? It’s really quite simple.  In the UK, everyone who works pays into the national insurance scheme, which amongst other things, pays for the National Health Service and for state pensions.  The final value of the pension depends upon the number of years a person has contributed.  A full pension requires the pensioner to pay into the national insurance scheme for 30 years.  This has recently been raised from 25 years.  The state pension is also indexed linked in an attempt to ensure that no one will suffer from rising prices. That is, it is index linked unless you live in Australia, Thailand or one of the other countries that does not have a reciprocal agreement with Britain. This means that once you move away from the UK your pension stays the same; until you die.

The pensioners shout “Unfair” as they had expected to receive the same treatment as other pensioners who had paid in the same amount.

Annette Carson, who emigrated to South Africa 10 years ago, is one of the people who has taken the British government to court. Her pension is the same as it was in 2000 yet her colleagues who stayed in the UK now receive almost twice as much. Yet they all paid the same in contributions. Is this fair?

My experience is that governments rarely concern themselves with what is fair.  They concern themselves with what will win votes.  There are over half a million pensioners affected by this pensions freezing policy but they do not vote and therefore the government thinks they can be ignored.  The government rational is simply that offering index linked pensions to all will cost them an additional billion a year.

This is government behaviour I understand.  When there is a group of people who cannot affect the outcome of an election, governments will tend to ignore or exploit them.  The dangerous aspect of this case is that the government could use this argument to cease paying pensions at all to pensioners living abroad. Then they would save even more money.

We will have to wait for another week to find out what the judgement will be and then we will have to see whether or not the British government will take any notice.  So it may well be that Annette Carson achieves nothing for all the hard work she has put in. If she loses I am sure it will not be an end to the matter and it will come to a head at a critical time before a general election.

In my experience governments do not consider anything other than the economic argument.  And it is this argument that may have to be put to the government should the Strasbourg verdict to be unfavourable to Annette Carson.

The British government’s own figures show that people of pensionable age, on average, cost the government, over and above their state pension, an additional 7,000 per year.  This is because of additional benefits, a winter fuel allowance, free eyeglasses and the cost of using the national health service.

This fact enables us to do a very simple sum.  If we multiply the half a million emigrant pensioners who are not in index linked, by the cost they would incur for the government if they had stayed in the UK, i.e. 7,000 per annum each, we see that the cost of keeping these pensioners in the UK would be 3.5 billion.  So rather than costing the government half a billion these pensioners are actually saving a net 3 billion for the government each year, even if their pensions were index linked.

There are other benefits too.  The UK has a great shortage of accommodation which is freed up by pensioners who live abroad.  Local government also makes savings if pensioners live abroad as they do not have to offer reduced council tax, free bus passes, free entry to Council facilities and, of course, the huge amount of help and service provision to elderly and infirm people.

Hopefully the pensioners will win through at Strasbourg and the British government will toe the line.  If they do not, the pensioners are now well organised, and it is quite likely that this subject will be raised during the forthcoming election. The politicians should remember that the “Baby Boomers” are about to retire, and they do vote!

Thai inflation rises for 5th consecutive month

Consumer prices in February rose 3.7 percent year-on-year, indicating that the Thai economy is continuing to recover and is returning to normal, said Permanent Secretary for Commerce Yanyong Puangrach.

Inflation in February rose for the fifth consecutive month due to higher prices of agricultural goods and food. Oil prices also rose 35.8 percent, compared to the same period last year.

The Consumer Price Index in February increased 0.56 percent while the Core Consumer Price Index rose 0.02 percent, compared to the previous month.

Yangyong said inflation is forecast to stay at 3.7 percent in the first quarter and 3-3.5 percent on average during 2010, based on the assumption that the crude oil price is US$70-80 per barrel, the Thai baht is 31-33 against US dollar and the government’s measures to help low income earners are further extended for another three months.

The Bank of Thailand said the country’s economy is projected to grow 3.3-5.3 percent. However, political situation, rising inflation, labor shortages and the fluctuation of oil prices must be closely monitored. (TNA)