Peruvians elect new president on pension promise


By Carlos Alarcón from IPEMIN, Peru (Institute for the Development of Fisheries and Mining)

As the Peruvian presidential election concluded on 5 June, the prospect of a social pension for all Peruvians came a step closer. The winner of the race was Ollanta Humala who, as a key election pledge, promised that his government would introduce a minimum pension for everyone over the age of 65. Older people in Peru campaigning for a pension on a HelpAge and ANAMPER march. Older people in Peru campaigning for a pension on a HelpAge and ANAMPER march. (c) HelpAge International

The "Pension 65", as branded by Humala, appears to have been one of his most popular commitments. According to the opinion polls, the population ranked the non-contributory pension as one of Humala's three most important proposals. Most Peruvians are in favour of a non-contributory pension, and support increased during Humala's campaign from 59% in March to 73% at the end of May.

However, the idea has not come out of the blue, but was directly influenced by the advocacy of HelpAge International's partners over the last three years.

Three year campaign

In the last three years, the National Association of Older People in Peru (ANAMPER) with the support of IPEMIN (Institute for the Development of Fisheries and Mining), HelpAge International and other partners developed a strong campaign for a social pension.

Only one in five older people who are 65 and over receive a pension in Peru. Over 40% of Peru's population still work in the informal sector, and many still live in poverty. This current situation is a major obstacle to reducing poverty in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals.

ANAMPER's efforts have included a range of advocacy activities. A group of leaders from ANAMPER worked with organisations including the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Social security of Congress and the Bureau of Coordination to Combat Poverty to put together a legislative proposal which called for a social pension.

A first sign of progress came in July 2010, when former president Alan Garcia announced the "Gratitud" programme, a pension targeting the poorest older people. However, ANAMPER recognised that this would only reach a minority of older people.

In late 2010, the proposal put forward by ANAMPER was adopted unanimously by the Committee on Social Security. It was then discussed at the National Congress, but any final resolution was postponed indefinitely.

Voting for non-contributory pensions

As the 2011 election approached, ANAMPER and partners saw a key opportunity to push a social pension onto the political agenda. ANAMPER held consultations with a range of political candidates including Humala, and Keiko Fujimori - his rival in the second round of votes.

It was during a consultation between ANAMPER and Humala that he signed a public commitment on 4 March that - if elected - his government would implement a pension for people 65 and over with no other pension. Keiko Fujimori also publicly promised to extend the Bono Gratitud (Gratitude cash transfer), which reaches only 2,200 people over the age of 65, living in extreme poverty.

It was from this point onwards that the question of social pensions became a key election battleground and undoubtedly contributed to Humala's victory.

"Pension 65" on the table

The proposed "Pension 65" renews older people's hope of receiving a pension. The proposed new pension would provide 250 soles (US$90) to every older person over 65 not currently receiving any other pension. This would be introduced gradually, starting with older people over 75 years.

However, there is still work to do to ensure the pension becomes a reality. There are increasing calls for the pension to be means tested - a move which would lead to many poor older people being left out. Awareness therefore needs to be raised about the benefits of making the pension universal.

The first step happened on 15 June when ANAMPER held a meeting at the National Congress to meet with the recently elected members. Older activists will also continue to work on legislative proposals and are hoping to work closely with the new government and the newly elected President Humala himself.

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