Sat, 05 Apr 2003

Pension payday, joy for the elderly

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Sutardjo, 70, made a one-and-half-hour journey by foot on his bare feet on Friday from his home on Jl. Manggarai Selatan II, Central Jakarta, to the Jatinegara Post Office in East Jakarta.

The fourth day of every month is a day that he greatly anticipates. Not only because he rarely goes out as he has to run all household chores and nurse his ailing wife, but mainly because it is pension day.

"The amount is not much ... but enough," Sutardjo told The Jakarta Post while he was waiting his turn at the post office.

He retired on Jan. 1, 1996 after working 39 years for state railway company PT KAI as a janitor at Manggarai Station.

His pension is less than Rp 400,000 a month.

He has two children, and has buried two others. One of them fell ill and died when it was three years, while the other died in a road accident at the age of 21.

His oldest daughter is a housewife and his son just entered the workforce as a porter.

Pensions are disbursed to retired public servants or their heirs at particular post offices. Each pensioner is paid between the 4th and the 9th of the month.

Last year there were 41,315 pensioners in Greater Jakarta area who received a total payment of about Rp 25.8 billion per month through post offices.

The seating area near the pensioners' counter at Jatinegara Post Office was especially crowded on Friday because only one attendant out of the usual three was on duty. But the pensioners appeared unbothered by the two to three-hour wait.

"I'm not in a rush," said Tumirah Hadipranoto, 56, who had been waiting an hour to collect her late husband's pension. Her husband retired from the Jakarta air transportation agency in 1984.

Walking in alone, Tumirah came prepared with a bottle of drinking water. Four of her six children still live at home with her in Kayumanis, East Jakarta. All four have jobs, while the other two are married and live out of town.

"My children pay all of our living expenses. I use some of my husband's pension for arisan (tontine) contribution," she told the Post.

Also a retiree of PT KAI, Sudarman, 63, played with his grandchild Triadi in the post office.

"One of my grandchildren always come with me on the fourth day of every month. Fortunately, it doesn't happen every day because things could get out of hand if they wanted me to buy them toys or snacks as soon as I receive my pension," he said.

Across from the post office is a street market where toys, clothes and snacks are sold. There are also a number of street vendors selling clothing, sarongs, belts, sandals and housewares. They usually display their merchandise on plastic sheeting outside the post office on pension day.

With three spoiled grandchildren and his youngest child still at high school, Sudarman claimed he had to budget tightly to meet all expenses with his Rp 600,000 (US$67) pension.

Sopiah, 60, whose late husband was in the Navy, said she was not the only one in her family who looked forward to pension day.

"My grandchild, Luki ... he is seven ... wanted to come to the post office with me, but he had to go to school. He wants me to bring him soda and toys," she said.