Mon 21 Sep 2020

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Retired government employees in Damascus are not taken into account by Syrian government  

An old man walking in the streets of Damascus - June 2020 (Lens young Dimashqi)

An old man walking in the streets of Damascus - June 2020 (Lens young Dimashqi)

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Enab Baladi – Khawla Hefzy

“ I find it hard to meet my family’s basic needs due to my limited retirement income, and high prices, especially since I have to buy myself  a basket of medicines each week, including medications used to treat high blood pressure and cholesterol, whose prices have increased recently.”

With words mixed with helplessness and disappointment, Muhammad al-Jasem, a pseudonym used for security concerns, spoke to Enab Baladi about his suffering after he got retired. 

The man, aged 70, seemed to be confused and stuttering when talking about his pension, which does not exceed 30,ooo Syrian Pounds (SYP- around 15 USD) and which is supposed to sufficiently provide for him and his family (his wife and two daughters.)

In the Syrian capital, Damascus, which most of its residents complain about high prices and their inability to cope with a living reality that is getting worse day after day, the seventy-year-old retiree keeps struggling in life and adhering to fatherhood by his unwavering desire to protect his two daughters financially.  

He elaborated, “ When I was a young man, I preferred to be a government employee to secure my future. I spent my youth in the hope of a steady salary that would save me the hassle of asking for help, but lately, I have figured out that I was wrong.”

The salaries of retired employees in the Syrian government are between 20 and 40 thousand SYP (between 9 and 18 USD), as monitored by Enab Baladi.

Return to work after retirement

The suffering of Muhammad al-Jasem is no different from that of Ahmed Jomer, a retired sixty employee of the General Organization for Insurance and Pensions in Damascus, but he decided to return to work again after he was retired.

The 60-year-old retiree said, “I had to work in conformity with high prices,” but he only found a vacancy in a falafel shop in Damascus, so he accepted it even though he has a degenerative disc disease.  

Al-Jasem added, “To save my face and avoid humiliation by asking for help because my retirement salary is not enough to supply for my wife and me, I try to make more money even if I get back pain from standing and working for long hours in the shop.”

“I try to be so energetic and flexible while working so that the shop owner will not be bothered with my slow movement and then fire me as well,” added the 60-year-old sarcastically,“There is no room for rest, as if I am a young man who is starting his life all over.”

Syria is ranked as the world’s poorest country

Syria topped the list of the poorest countries in the world, with a rate of 82.5 percent, according to World By Map data.

The website issued data and statistics for the population below the poverty line in every country in the world, and Syria ranked first in the world in terms of poverty.

The poverty line is defined as the minimum level of income with which a person can provide an adequate standard of living. 

The website’s figures are consistent with the figures reported by the United Nations in 2019 about the most humanitarian needs of Syria; an estimated 83 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line.

The report states that 83 percent of the Syrian population lives in extreme poverty. As a result, the adaptive capacities of people in the most affected communities in Syria have been exhausted.

Pensioner and state pension

A pensioner or retiree is every civil or military employee whose years of service have expired in the state’s sectors. A pensioner is entitled to a retirement pension for his years of service. Before retirement, he must be an employee who has a permanent relationship with the state, and a substantial period of service included in the state’s general budget.

The state pension is a regular income paid by the Syrian government to people who reached state pension age. The state pension is an extension of the job salary. A civil servant’s or worker’s old-age retirement is essential to provide financial security for the individual and his family in his old age. The pension will be paid until the person’s death, after which a percentage of the salary is paid to his wife or the beneficiary of the salary after his death.

In Syria, the employee can terminate the employment contract in two cases; either after reaching the age of 60 (Syria’s retirement age) with 15 years of contributions or through voluntary early retirement, which enables the employee to request retirement benefits after reaching 25 years of continuous service without being bound by the requirement age.  

Today’s retirement pension in Syria is calculated based on equivalence for all employees and workers as a general rule, with some exceptions to this rule, which are: the number of years of public service x the average wage of the last year ÷ 40.

The salaries of retired state employees and those in charge of their work are not commensurate with the necessities of life, which pushes them to pursue another profession to be able to cope with the high prices.

Queues of retirees to get paid

Photos of retirees in one of the state departments while gathering to get their retirement salaries had gone viral on local social media pages, which contradicted the government’s announced measures to limit gatherings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

After the criticisms were raised about these photos, the former head of the Syrian government, Imad Khamis, on the 30th of last March, issued a decision stipulating the determination of the payment of salaries and wages for workers in the state at different times within the month, and it includes the distribution of salaries gradually.

According to the decision, salaries and wages are to be paid to the employees, starting from the 23rd of every month.

The “General Organization for Insurance and Pensions” pays the salaries of military retirees and their heirs through automated teller machines (ATM) on the 10th of every month, and through pension books on the 25th of every month.

The salaries of civilian retirees and their heirs are paid through ATMs on the 20th of every month and pension books on the last day of each month.

The decision stipulates that the “Social Insurance Institution” will give the pensions of retirees and their heir through ATMs on the 15th of every month, and through pigeon holes on the 20th of every month.

House floor cleaning broom is depicted as a last resort

Layla al-Taqi, aged 50, holds a floor cleaning broom, contemplating it as her only refuge and source of livelihood after her husband’s death.

“After my husband died, the retirement pension which I receive has reached 25 thousand SYP (11.4 USD). Consequently, I have to search for an opportunity to meet my daily needs and the high prices,” al-Taqi said.

The woman, with her gloomy features, tells a story of her extreme suffering and pain. She said, “ I found myself compelled to work as a cleaner in a dental clinic. At night I return to my house because I need to keep my dignity since I have never been used to humiliate myself to get some assistance.”

  Al-Taqi concluded her speech with Enab Baladi, saying that “I have no children who can help me throughout my life.”

With the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Syrian market saw a fresh rise in the prices of basic foodstuffs by about 30 percent, amid a decline in the purchasing power of citizens.

The United Nations has expressed concern about the rise in food prices throughout Syria.

The spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Stephane Dujarric, stated on 8 June that “more than 11 million Syrians are currently in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.”

Dujarric added that the United Nations is increasingly concerned about the rapid rise in food prices, as prices have more than doubled in 2019, by 133  percent across Syria.

 

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