Pensioners can expect to see slightly fatter checks starting this summer, but still live what one politician describes as a "miserable" life.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 03/07/12
Tens of thousands of pensioners paid into the old Yugoslav Fund, yet are receiving no help from Serbia. [Reuters]
In Pristina's Mother Teresa Square, pensioners gather to play cards, or meet up downtown at their Pensioners club, where they reminisce about the old days and worry about the current ones. All hope for better days ahead.
Those who worked until retirement age receive 80 euros per month from the government, while those who have did not work or contribute to the pension system get 45 euros, barely enough to cover the needs of a week.
Even with passage of a new law with its anticipated increase of 26.25% this summer, the monthly pensions climb from 80 euros to 101 euros. Those with disabilities will receive an increase of 11.11%, going from 45 euros to 50 euros.
Mehmet Alshiqi, 73, worked for years in Yugoslavia's construction industry. "Until 1989, I worked, and then life became difficult when we lost the jobs, but we somehow could push forword. Now I have this small pension [of 80 euros] and my wife has 45, while my son works everything that he can find and takes a salary of 230 euros. Just imagine how difficult it is with 355 euros to feed a seven-member family," Alshiqi told SETimes.
He said he is disappointed that the post-war governments did not take care of the pensioners.
Kosovo is the only former Yugoslav country that does not apply what is known as the solidarity pension scheme between generations. Instead, the pensions are paid by state budget.
Both workers and employers contribute 5% of wages, but the money is managed by the TRUST Pensioner Fund which invests the money abroad.
In Croatia, workers pay 20% of their wages into the pension fund. In Serbia both workers and employers contribute 11% of wages into the state pension fund, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), workers pay 17% while employers contribute 6%.
The differences in outcomes are startling. In Croatia, the average pension is 279 euros. It is 230 euros in Serbia and 180 euros in BiH.
"Kosovo's pension system can't be found in any European country," Sahit Dragaj, chairman of the Pensioners Party of Kosovo, told SETimes. He added that the life of pensioners can be described as "miserable" and that no social group in the country faces this level of discrimination.
He said pensioners oppose the new law because it still does not respect their demands.
A key issue is the fact that since March 1999, Serbia has not contributed to the pensions of non-Serb Kosovars who were contributors to the Pensioner's Fund. According to Kosovo's government records, as of December 31st 1998, there were an estimated 92,000 Kosovo pensioners who were contributors to the Serbian [Yugoslav] Pension Fund.
"Nothing is done and there is no hope, although we as pensioners have always required that the issue of the stolen funds from Belgrade to be part of the technical talks," said Dragaj.
"They forget that we are those who built Pristina and the other towns; our generation established the schools and university, and now they do not take in consideration our demands for a higher pensions, because we gave the money to the Pensioners Fund [of Yugoslavia]," Alshiqi said.
Musa Demiri, public relations director at Kosovo's Ministry for Labour and Social Welfare, told SETimes that all told there are more than 168,000 pensioners. "The situation of pensioners in Kosovo is not satisfactory, but [is] in harmony with ... budget possibilities," Demiri said.