Political parties pass secret pension promise test

Take note – story published 5 years and 9 months ago

The electioneering season may be upon us with claims and criticism flying in all directions. But an attempted sting by LTV's Aizliegtais paņēmiens (Forbidden Methods) investigative show to catch politicians making promises they couldn't keep turned up an interesting and encouraging result: they told the truth instead.

The experiment involved two pensioners saying they would sign up to each political party in question if they would promise raising pensions by 50 euros per month if and when they get into power next year.  While that may not sound a lot, it would require an additional 270 million euros to be found for the state budget each year - a difficult demand in current circumstances.

The two pensioners made their way to public meetings with some prominent politicians on the election stump and despite talk of populism and empty promises, all showed levels of honesty and straight-talking that might surprise some.

National Alliance Saeima deputy candidate Janis Iesalnieks, passed the test with flying colours, saying "Indexation will take place, but 50 euros... it will not be 50 euros. That is, nowadays the economy is growing fast, so indexation may be higher than before. But 50 - I cannot promise what will not be. "

For the Greens and Farmers' Union, veteran politician Augusts Brigmanis was also candid. Even though ZZS usually receives a large chunk of its support from pensioners, he did not fall to the temptation to make unrealistic promises, instead saying indexation was planned and that the 280 euro pension of the couple in question might reach 300 euros per month.

"For my part, I have to tell you quite candidly, it would be unfair to promise what has not been agreed upon," said Brigmanis.

A representative of the third party in the current coalition, New Unity also passed the test. Hosam Abu Meri told the pensioners: "It will certainly not be [increased by] so much... We could promise, but the question is whether we could deliver. (..) Well, it won't happen next year! That's nonsense. Then, in December, when we adopt the budget, you will say - you are a liar, you lied. I would not want that."

The LTV volunteer then called current welfare minister Janis Reirs (also of New Unity) and again was told:

"I have never promised unrealistic things. This is not feasible. Money does not appear from nowhere. It comes from money paid in [to the budget]. Where do you think the state could get this extra money? ... A €50 supplement per month is practically... fantasy. "

So with the coalition parties dealt with, the intrepid pension pair turned their attention to opposition parties. Surely they would be willing to promise anything in order to get their hands on power?

LTV's volunteer pensioner went to Sigulda for a meeting of the KPV LV party and its leader Artuss Kaimiņš. Despite being often accused of populist tendencies Kaimiņš too chose his words with care:

"What do you want to hear from me about pensions, I am 37 years old!" he joked, before adding "We do not promise anything, we just say that we will do it. What will we do: we say that you will not have to pay for real estate [taxes], we say that you will have cheaper medicine. "

Next up was the Harmony party at a meeting in Iļguciems. This time the questions were posed by someone posing as the grandson of the pensioners. Harmony candidate Regina Ločmele-Lunova said "The main point is we want to make pensions non-taxable" and though she described a oension increase of 50 euros as "realistic" she said it depended upon the abolition of income tax on pensions and other reforms to the pension system as a whole, so did not really constitute a promise of a 50 euro increase as things stand presently.

At another meeting of Harmony with voters in Purvciems, the party's prime minister, economist Vyacheslav Dombrovskis, pledged a 3% pension increase next year - far below the 50 euro per month mark.

Other parties also avoided falling into the trap set by Forbidden Methods at public meetings. These included Development / For" saying that during the year they would like a 7-8% supplement to pensions and an increase in the non-taxable minimum - up to 500 euros and the New Conservative Party saying it would increase the minimum pension to 200 euros and the non-taxable minimum to 500 euros.

So in brief, the shocking news is: none of the parties made promises they had no intention or realistic way of keeping. Ironically, the only ones who had to admit to willful deceit by the end of the show were the journalists running the experiment.


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