During the 2014 presidential campaign, Santos promised that he would unconditionally support bills designed to help those who have retired but live on very little income. However three bills that do just that have arrived on Santos’ desk, already approved by congress, and he has yet to sign any of them.
The three bills increase the amount of pensions and lower the barriers to receiving pension, specifically for women. They also provide a three-fold reduction in the health care contributions that are required to be deducted, from 12% to 4%.
In spite of the support shown by President Santos to these initiatives, the country’s Ministry of Finance has argued strongly against the idea. Colombia, already under severe budget pressure from falling oil revenues, has been battling to maintain social services with a limited budget. The pension bills would cost 2.3 billion Colombian pesos ($US 766 million dollars).
Mauricio Lizcano, acting president of the current congress, criticized the Minister of Finance for their opposition to the bills.
“The Minister of Finance likes a government that increases taxes, but not a government that helps the most disadvantaged sectors of the population”, he said. “They have never cared about political debates, but now suddenly they wants to kill projects. If that’s the case, the minster will have to respond to Colombians and the courts will have the last word.”
Some retired Colombias fear that the executive branch of government will reject the bills, taking to the streets of Bogotá to protest. The protest used the hashtag #YoApoyoAMisViejos on Twitter, including varios senators and presidential candidates.
#YoApoyoAMisViejos son ejemplo de esfuerzo, gobierno santos debe cumplir promesa de campaña y ley para reducir a 4% el aporte mensual
— Alberto Castilla Salazar (@AlbertoCastSal) July 18, 2017
Jhon Jairo Díaz, president of Colombia’s Retired Association, said that there are many ways to get the money needed to fund the pension laws, including the taxation of national entrepreneurial assets that are most believe are hidden in tax havens. He also said that money is being lost through political corruption, and indicated that the money could even be sought by reducing the pension of retired military personnel.
Alirio Uribe, representative of the “El Polo Democrático” party, initiated a petition named “Vamos Por Los Derechos” (Let’s Get Our Rights), whose objective is to demand that Santos approve these laws. The petition has already collected over 5,000 signatures.
“These elderly men and women gave their lives to the country and that they deserve to be recognized with the fulfillment of Santos’ promises”, he said. He told Santos that the situation was critical, and that had only 6 days to approve the bills before they expire.