x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Army and police officers' Dh100,000 pension gap

Former officers call for reform of the system as those who retired recently are paid six times as much as colleagues who left before 2008.

Brig Gen Ali Ibrahim, a former director of Dubai Civil Defence, retired in 2003.
Brig Gen Ali Ibrahim, a former director of Dubai Civil Defence, retired in 2003. "Does it make sense that, as a brigadier general, I receive the same salary as a sergeant?"

Former police and army officers are calling for changes to a system under which those who retired in the past two years receive pensions up to six times higher than colleagues of the same rank who retired before 2008. The discrepancy has arisen because a salary increase in 2008 was not made retrospective to increase the pensions of officers who had already retired. They are now leading calls for reform of the system to address what they describe as "inequality".

One of those affected is Col Sultan al Hajeri, who studied law and managed police stations in Sharjah for 30 years until he retired in 2003. His pension is Dh22,000 a month, while a colleague who retired five years later receives Dh127,000 a month. "My colleague and I were appointed on the same day. We served for 30 years together," said Col al Hajeri, who has six children. "I completed 30 years and retired and he continued for five years. Should this increase include him but not me?

"God bless the money they get, but there is inequality in the issue. Some retired officers said they are now receiving the same as some people of much lower rank. "Does it make sense that, as a brigadier general, I receive the same salary as a sergeant?," argued Brig Gen Ali Ibrahim, a retired former director of Dubai Civil Defence and a former top official at the emirate's immigration department.

Brig Gen Ibrahim, who has 11 children, receives Dh24,000 a month. He retired in 2003. The issue was a subject of debate at a Federal National Council session in January. Ali al Matroushi, a member from Ajman, asked Obaid al Tayer, the Minister of State for Financial Affairs and the second-highest ranking official at the General Pensions and Social Security Authority (GPSSA), whether the Government was considering fixing the discrepancy. Mr al Tayer replied that the ministry's role was limited to assessing the costs of raising pensions. Any increases must occur by federal decree.

Mr al Matroushi called for reforms: "Among the retired officers are those who were in Bosnia, and who participated in the liberation of Kuwait, and who were martyred, or were hit by a disability and retired for health reasons." He said some retired officers had sought help from the Red Crescent Authority and the Ministry of Social Affairs. "These are the individuals who laid the foundation of the country," he said. "It rose on their shoulders and they worked in very tough conditions, and these must be looked at."

When officers retire, they are promoted by one rank and earn pensions equivalent to the salary of an officer who has been in that rank for two years. There are about 6,000 officers collecting pensions. It is unclear whether pension reforms currently under consideration would address the discrepancy. Muzaffar al Haj, the director general of the GPSSA, told the Arabic daily Emarat al Youm that his agency may in the future calculate pensions based on the median income of officers over the last three years of service rather than just their last year at work.

"We served for a long time, whether in the police or the armed forces, and it is a large group that is affected," said Col al Hajeri. A retired officer who was a legal official at the Ministry of Interior in Abu Dhabi said his salary was about Dh34,000 before he retired, but that the equivalent rank now was paid more than Dh130,000. He argued that the system was in breach of police rules under which everything that applies to serving officers must also apply to retired officers.

Some retired officers faced further challenges because they were not qualified for jobs outside the military, he added, making it difficult to supplement their pensions. One solution is for the governemt, to leverage the experience of retired officers in consulting positions within the Government, said Brig Gen Ibrahim. kshaheen@thenational.ae