5.2% Salary Increase: What about retirees?
In his December 31, 2022 end-of-year address to the nation, Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, announced that the country’s civil servants would be blessed with a 5.2% salary increase in the New Year.
Instead of triggering excitement and celebration, the president’s announcement was as unpopular as himself. Indeed, the salary increase was long overdue and when it came, it sounded more like a drop in the ocean.
Cameroon has the lowest salaries in all French-speaking African countries. Following the devaluation of the CFA Franc in the early 90s, most French-speaking African countries increased the salaries of their workers, with some taking up the salaries of their civil servants by 100%.
On the contrary, Cameroon slashed civil service salaries by 66%, triggering a wave of corruption within government departments and a storm of migration which has resulted in the country’s best and brightest looking outward for greener pastures.
Today, the country’s economic outlook is grim and the economy has been weakened by both internal and external shocks.
Among the most destabilizing shocks are COVID-19, rising oil prices and the Ukraine war which has triggered a global inflation which has left many Cameroonians in tough financial circumstances.
The 5.2% salary increase announced by Cameroon’s president was the government’s best effort to cushion the impact of inflation, but it, in turn, increased fuel prices, taxes and the prices of certain products, a clear contradiction which leaves doubts in many minds.
For someone who earns CFAF 200,000 in Cameroon, a 5.2% salary increase will give them an additional CFAF 10,000 which will not afford them much in terms of goods and services.
Strangely, the government’s inflation-checking plan was not intended for everyone. The private sector has not sought to alleviate the financial pain of its workers. There are vulnerable segments of the population which have not been attended to and they are really hurting.
Among the hurting segments are retirees whose incomes are fixed and they cannot find any jobs by virtue of their ages in a country wherein unemployment has reached astronomical figures.
Retirees are hurting. They need help. The government plan never thought about them. Their pensions are fixed and inflation which actually stands at over 20% is diminishing the retiree’s financial ability.
The government has taken the first step, but it must go beyond what it has already done. More supporting measures are required if the impact of the devastating inflation must be cushioned.
Most retirees have been driven to the brink. With age, come many diseases. Many Cameroonian retirees are suffering from hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Their current incomes do not give them the financial leeway to operate the way they want.
If the Cameroonian government has to help retirees, it must come up with special programs which will help retirees to be hopeful.
Putting a good medical plan for retirees and giving them tax breaks will be one step that will bring them some peace of mind. A good health insurance program designed to meet the health needs of retirees will go a long way in addressing some of the financial stress generated by escalating goods and services prices.
By Dr. Joachim Arrey