A majority of senior citizens across the nation are pleased with Bhutan Tendrel Party’s (BTP) promise to introduce universal basic income to non-pensioner senior citizens above the age of 65 through their Phamai Drinlen Zurpho pledge.
Expressing elation, 75 year old Ap Wangdra from Nganglam Dechheling in Pemagatshel said that BTP has come up with a farsighted and compassionate pledge for the older section of the society.
“Many old aged couples don’t have children to look after them and some children do not care for their aged parents. Old age people without income undergo difficulties,” he said. “This universal income introduction will really benefit this disadvantaged group,” he added with a glimmer of hope radiating from his weary demeanor. However, he was quick to acknowledge that the party should first win the election to reap the benefits of this scheme.
Kinley Tshering, a 65 year-old man from Samtse said that the old age income scheme introduction would benefit if it really materializes and comes into effect. He said that it is hard for the senior citizens to survive when their children are far from home, especially when the children are unemployed.
According to senior citizens Business Bhutan talked to, there is also a common perception that older citizens as a group have lower social status than their middle-aged counterparts, and one reason for such perception is because of income.
“Old aged people cannot work to earn and should depend on their children even for basic livelihood. The scheme would greatly benefit people like us and can dedicate our time practicing dharma,” said 72 year-old Ngawang Dema from Chhali in Mongar.
A senior citizen from Punakha, Namgay said that universal basic income will help the senior citizens to lead spiritual life without concerning about income. He said, “This would enhance quality of life.”
BTP’s pledge to introduce universal basic income aims to support the welfare of older people, to improve their social and economic status and to encourage independence. Since old-age programmes mitigate life-course risks that are relevant to individuals across socio-economic groups in ageing societies, all parties have a political incentive to support these initiatives.
On similar grounds concerning the wellbeing of senior citizens, the party said, “In an ever ageing society, the importance of prioritizing the well-being of our senior citizens and vulnerable groups cannot be overstated. The party recognizes this pressing matter and emphasizes the need to strengthen and promote timely access to healthcare services,” the party stated.
“By doing so, we can greatly improve the quality of life for these individuals by ensuring they receive the medical attention they need, exactly when they need it. This not only reflects our society’s values but also demonstrates our commitment to building a compassionate and fair healthcare system that benefits everyone.
The interests of the older electorate often prevail in politics in developed countries with ageing populations. “BTP’s salient issue related to governmental programs for the elderly is a new pledge so far in Bhutanese politics,” the party states.
Furthermore, BTP said that their pledge is crucial to address the financial security of both public and corporate employees, particularly in the face of annual inflation. “To tackle this challenge, we must conduct a thorough review and revision of pension schemes and benefits. By indexing these schemes to annual inflation rates, we can protect the financial futures of employees, allowing them to retire with dignity and peace of mind.”
The BTP candidates in every forum and debates say that this initiative not only benefits the workforce but also upholds the principles of fairness and economic stability within the society. However, achieving these goals is hindered by the current lack of proper infrastructure, especially in the healthcare sector.
Many senior citizens and vulnerable groups currently suffer from insufficient healthcare coverage, which is an urgent issue that demands immediate attention. Senior citizens, meanwhile, are upbeat and anxious about the new scheme, hoping that it will secure the remainder of their days in this world.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu