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Universal social pension transforms lives of elderly in Zanzibar

ZANZIBAR’s Universal Social Pension Scheme (ZUPS) has improved the lives of many older people in islands and made a positive impact on their wider households, according to a new report released recently.

As of January 2019, beneficiaries of the universal pension stood at 27,758 in Unguja and Pemba, out of whom 60 per cent were women.

Through the tailor-made pension scheme and one of its kind in the East African region, beneficiaries receive 20,000/- (about US 8.70 dollars) every month.

The Impact Evaluation of the Zanzibar Universal Pension Scheme delivers a positive assessment on how the first ever East Africa’s universal pension scheme, which entitles all Zanzibari residents, aged above 70 to a monthly social pension, has positively affected the lives of its recipients.

Produced by the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and the Economic and the Social Research Foundation (ESRF), the report delivers a positive assessment of the impact the social pension is having on older people and their households in Zanzibar.

“The Zanzibar government should be congratulated for the impact this pioneering pension has had on the lives of its older citizens. “This report provides clear evidence of an initiative which has helped deliver meaningful improvement to older people in Zanzibar,” said Smart Daniel, Country Director HelpAge International in Tanzania.

The evaluation found that the secure income provided by the pension had a very positive effect on beneficiaries’ households, enabling them to increase their spending on food, health and education. Older people found it easy to register for the pension, and said the payments were timely and carried out efficiently.

“The evaluation reveals that the ZUPS has for the first time, granted a secure monthly income to its recipients which has enabled them to enjoy improved wellbeing,” said Florian Juergens, the global social protection advisor at HelpAge International.

Older people who participated in discussion groups in Pemba and Unguja highlighted that the ZUPS was a critical source of income for them because of its reliability and the fact that it is paid in cash.

According to the report, universal social pensions are feasible policy options for governments and effective in ensuring income security for all people in older age, even where there are high-levels of poverty.

“The report confirms that even modest pensions can lead to important improvements in people lives. Further improvements, such as reducing the eligibility age and increasing the benefit level, have the potential to lead to even more positive changes for older people in Zanzibar,” Juergens added.

Qualitative evidence featured in the report shows that the ZUPS has had a positive impact on its beneficiaries’ wellbeing. Pension recipients spoke about how the pension had given them a sense of dignity and independence, which was confirmed by Shehas (local government officials) and health workers.

Beneficiaries were largely very satisfied with the way the Scheme had been implemented by the Ministry of Empowerment, Social Welfare, Youth, Women and Children with the support of local Shehas. The ZUPS was the first of its kind in east Africa and has since been followed by the establishment of a universal social pension in Kenya.

Uganda is also expanding its Senior Citizen Grant to achieve universal coverage. Other countries in the region are seriously considering following suit, with the Malawian Parliament debating a universal social pension bill while the Zimbabwean government has launched a feasibility study for the arrangement.

In Zanzibar, the pension scheme for the elderly was established in April 2016 with a primary objective of improving the economic status and wellbeing of older people at an individual level. The first payment was done in May 2016 where 21,750 old people received the payment.

The number increased to 27,758 beneficiaries as of January 2019 out. The recipients included 16,117 elderly women and 11,641 elderly men.

The evaluation report showed that ZUPS has had a positive impact on per capita household food expenditure, increasing expenditure by 3,293/- (US 1.43 dollars) whilst it also increased the probability of a household eating three meals a day by 10 percentage points.

Given the fact that the large number of the recipients are in advanced age, their main health complaints were pain in the legs and hip coupled with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension and diabetes.

However, older people are able to access free healthcare at government hospitals or health facilities relatively easily. The main challenge though, is limited supply of drugs at these facilities.

“As the population of individuals who are eligible to receive ZUPS increases in the next few decades then ZUPS has the potential to have significant general equilibrium effects on the economy. “Pensions have been linked to the empowerment and increased wellbeing of older people, as having an income of their own can generate feelings of independence, self-worth and dignity,” reads part of the report.

Social assistance is direct, regular and predictable cash or in-kind transfers to poor and vulnerable individuals or households financed by national taxes or Support from donors, mostly in lower income contexts.

HelpAge International is a global network of organisations promoting the right of all older people to lead dignified, healthy and secure lives. Magufuli hailed for pardoning 5,000

Author: Staff Reporter

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