Swiss voters reject raising women's retirement age - TV

Elderly people walk in the street, ahead of a national vote on pensions reform, in Lausanne, Switzerland, on September 22, 2017. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 24 September 2017
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Swiss voters reject raising women's retirement age - TV

ZURICH: Swiss voters were set to reject raising women's retirement age to 65 in a referendum on shoring up the wealthy nation's pension system as a wave of Baby Boomers stops working, projections by broadcaster SRF showed on Sunday.
The package being decided under the Swiss system of direct democracy included making retirement between the ages of 62 and 70 more flexible and raising the standard value-added tax (VAT) rate from 2021 to help finance the stretched pension system.
Authorities pushing the first serious reform of the pension system in two decades had warned that old-age benefits were increasingly at risk as life expectancy increases and interest rates remain exceptionally low, cutting investment yields.
The government-supported plan sought to secure the level of pensions through 2030 by cutting costs and raising additional revenue.
Minimum pay-out rates would gradually fall to stabilise the mandatory occupational pensions system and workers' pension contributions would rise, while public pensions for all new recipients would go up by 70 Swiss francs ($72.25) a month.
The retirement age for women would have gradually risen by a year to 65, the same as for men.
"That is no life," complained one 49-year-old kiosk cashier, who identified herself only as Angie. "You go straight from work to the graveyard."
The three-pillar Swiss pension system combines public benefits with employer schemes and voluntary savings plans.
Some critics complained that the higher retirement age for women and higher VAT rates were unfair, while others opposed expanding public benefits and said the reforms only postponed for a decade rather than solved the system's financial woes.
Opinion polls had shown the reforms just squeaking by, but support had been waning.
The plan earmarked 0.3 percentage point of VAT revenue for public pensions from next year and 0.6 percent from 2021. That would contribute roughly 2.1 billion francs a year by 2030.
But actual VAT rates would go up by only 0.3 point from 2021 -- the standard rate would become 8.3 percent -- because of reallocations of existing revenue flows from VAT.
A 2014 OECD survey found Switzerland, where workers earned over $91,000 on average, spends a relatively low 6.6 percent of economic output on public pensions. Life expectancy at birth was 82.5 years. More than 18 percent of the population was older than 65.
In a separate referendum, voters were set to approve a constitutional amendment that underscores the general thrust of current agriculture policy and sets out how to guarantee that the population will have proper food supplies in the long term.
($1 = 0.9690 Swiss francs)


Nowhere to run: Rohingya hunker down as monsoon arrives

Updated 4 min 31 sec ago
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Nowhere to run: Rohingya hunker down as monsoon arrives

UKHIYA, Bangladesh: The hill on which the young woman’s shelter is being built is so unstable that the earth crumbles under your feet. The threat of landslides is so dire that her neighbors have evacuated. Though living here could spell doom as the monsoon rains fall, she will live here anyway.
For Mustawkima, a Rohingya woman who fled Myanmar for the refugee camps of neighboring Bangladesh, there is no other option.
Hers is a dilemma repeated over and over for many of the 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in ramshackle huts across this unsteady landscape: With the long-dreaded monsoon season now upon them, they have run out of places to run.
For months, officials raced to relocate the most at-risk families to safer areas that had been bulldozed flat, but there simply isn’t enough available land. Most refugees believe it is too dangerous to return to Myanmar, where the military launched a brutal campaign of violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims last year. And so, as the rains begin to flood parts of the camps, many Rohingya find themselves trapped — by geography, by poverty and by fear.
The bamboo shelter on the crumbling hillside will be Mustawkima’s third attempt at finding a home in the camps. She has had to do everything on her own; Her husband was killed when the military stormed their village in August 2017.
Mustawkima, who like some Rohingya uses only one name, abandoned her first shelter when the soil washed away. With five children under the age of 8, she wanted her new home to be close to relatives living at the base of the hill, so she erected a flimsy tarp halfway up. But when the rains began in June, the water quickly poured in, transforming her dirt floor into a muddy mess.
Frightened, she sold off some of her donated rations of rice, lentils and oil so she could hire men to build her a sturdier shelter in the same spot. The bamboo and sandbags were donated by aid agencies. She fears there isn’t enough material, but she has no money to buy extra bamboo.
Families living in five shelters on the hill recently evacuated, she says. She can only hope that her relatives will protect her and her children when the worst of the rains arrive.
The most intense rains are expected over the next few months, though heavy downpours began pummeling the camps in June. There have already been more than 160 landslides, 30 people injured and one toddler killed, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group, or ISCG, which oversees the aid agencies in the camps.
“Within 24 hours of the first rains falling, we were seeing small landslides and we were seeing flooding everywhere,” says Daphnee Cook, a spokeswoman for Save the Children. “I’ve been here for seven months and I was appalled at how quickly things started to fall apart.”
The ferocity of the rains and the swiftness with which they can wreak havoc is stunning. On a recent day, it took just minutes for a downpour to transform the face of another hill into a waterfall, with torrents of muddy water cascading down dirt steps.
Beyond the landslides and flooding, there are worries about waterborne diseases like cholera. Some of the latrines are piled high with fly-riddled excrement, which seeps out the sides during downpours. Water pumps are generally just a few meters away — worse, some are located downhill.
Aid workers have cleaned out thousands of latrines. Children are receiving identity bracelets in case they are separated from parents in the flooding. Families have received extra materials to fortify their shelters. Trenches have been dug to try and redirect floodwaters.
Ultimately, though, the topography of the camps is the biggest problem. The trees that once covered the hills have been cut down to make room for shelters, and the roots dug up for firewood. That process has dramatically loosened the soil, which the rains turn into heavy mud that slips down the hillsides, burying anything in its path.
The jagged scar on Mohamed Alom’s head is a grim reminder of the dangers of those landslides. The 27-year-old was asleep in his shelter last month when a torrent of mud crashed through the plastic wall next to him. A tree root slammed into his head, slicing open his skin. His agonized screams awakened his wife and two young children, who rushed him to a doctor.
Now, he and his family are among 13 people living in a one-room schoolhouse. Alom is hoping officials will help him build a new shelter, but he has no idea how long that will take.
More than 200,000 people are living in areas considered at risk of landslides and flooding, according to the ISCG. Around 34,000 refugees have been relocated to other areas, with some moving into sturdier shelters further away from the hills.
Hotiza Begum, 25, recently moved into one of the new shelters with her husband and five children after mud crashed through the roof of her old one. She likes her relatively spacious new home. But it is hard to find firewood, she says, because they now live far from the mountains. And the markets can only be reached by tuk tuk, which costs about $1 — more than they can afford.
Yet at least her family is safe, for now. Abu Bakker’s family lives at the base of a hill where a landslide destroyed eight shelters. A few weeks ago, Bakker’s 60-year-old mother was trying to scoop a bit of soil out of their shelter when a deluge of mud crashed through their tarp wall, knocking her to the ground and burying her up to her thighs.
Bakker dug his terrified mother out and knew he had to get his family away. An aid group promised him supplies to rebuild, but they still haven’t arrived. And even if they do, he asks, where will he rebuild?
He is scared whenever it rains, which is often. He prays every day for Allah to protect them.
Still, for many Rohingya refugees who have made it through mass killings, rapes and other abuse in a military crackdown, the fear of the monsoon is relative.
“In Myanmar, it’s scary because there’s no guarantee for our lives,” says Alom, as the rain begins to fall on the roof. “Here, even if there’s a landslide, at least we don’t have to worry about the military.”