x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Retired officers welcome pension changes, express some reservations

Equality is an issue as difference in amount received can be as much as Dh100,000 a month depending on retirement date.

ABU DHABI // Retired military officers have welcomed a 70 per cent increase in their pensions, though some said the measure still leaves them with far lower stipends than colleagues who retired as little as a month later.

In some cases military officers who retired after January 2008 earned a monthly pension as much as six times higher than those who retired at the end of 2007. The difference can be as much as Dh100,000 a month.

“What is needed is equality,” said Brig Gen Ali al Sayed Ibrahim, a former director of the Dubai Civil Defence. “All retirees should be equal.”

The gap was the result of a 2008 law that increased pensions for military and police officers who retired from that year but was not applicable to those who retired before then. Col Sultan al Hajeri, a 30-year Sharjah police veteran, said at the time his pension was Dh22,000 a month while a colleague who retired five months later received Dh127,000 a month.

A decree issued last week by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, ordered a 70 per cent increase in the pensions of military officers and defence ministry personnel who retired before January 2008.

The 2008 law comprehensively restructured the pensions and salaries of current officers and those who retired after the law was issued. Statistics obtained from the Ministry of Finance at the time showed that 6,000 officers were collecting pensions.

However, the decree by Sheikh Mohammed, effective as of this month, did not apply to retired police officers. Brig Gen Ibrahim said there should be “equality and justice” for all retired officers.

“The number does not concern us as much as the principle,” he said. “We have the same duties and responsibilities, so why should one retiree earn a quarter of the salary of another retiree? The Constitution bans laws which differentiate between citizens.”

The issue came up in a Federal National Council session last March when Ali al Matroushi, the chairman of the FNC defence and home affairs committee, asked the Minister of State for Financial Affairs when the government would address the gap. He was told the ministry had no authority over pensions.

Mr al Matroushi said yesterday that retired officers had hoped for a greater increase to bring them more in line with retired colleagues, saying they still remained hopeful that this would occur eventually.

“Our friends and colleagues who retired from the armed forces were hoping that the grant would be close to their colleagues who retired after 2008”, he said. “The gap is very big.” He also noted that Ministry of Interior officers would not be able to take advantage of the pay raise.

While the discrepancy exists at Federal level, Dubai Police have brought pensions of its retired officers much more in line, with differences between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000, said Mr al Matroushi. That should act as a precedent for the Federal Government, Brig Gen Ibrahim said.

Mr al Matroushi said there was an even wider discrepancy between officers who retired after 2008 and those who retired in the late 1990s is even bigger because pensions were raised more than once in the interim. However, he remained optimistic that changes to equalise pension amounts would be realised.

Col al Hajeri shared that optimism, though he expressed disappointment at the scale of the increase.

“They didn’t give us justice,” he said. “The percentage should be equal. They won’t forget us and we’re sure of that, but we’ve been waiting for it for some time. I hope that we are made equal to those who retired after us and God willing they won’t let us down.”

kshaheen@thenational.ae