The announcement that senior citizens will no longer travel for free on the inter-island ferry between Trinidad and Tobago has come as a shock among senior citizens, who are also seeing it as a form of disrespect by the Government.
On Monday during the Budget presentation, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that senior citizens will now have to pay $25 one-way ($50 return) to use the service from January 1, 2023.
However, T&T Association of Retired Persons (TTARP) secretary Mayling Younglao yesterday described the decision as “harsh.”
Younglao said as a senior citizen herself, the fee for the service, which was previously free to any travelling senior citizen, was inconsiderate given the fact that the country is now coming out of a COVID-19 lockdown.
“This was our only avenue to make a day trip at no cost. It cost us yes because we have to be there early, we have to get transport and get meals and so but, it was a plus,” Younglao said.
“If we are all thinking of the mental…dementia, it is one way for a senior citizen to help themselves come together, take a little trip, see a nice little sea, feel the breeze in their face and it helps and you come back home and you’re rejuvenated. But now, we have to look at it, if we have to put $25 and it will make so much of a difference, it might not make a big difference to say the average person but for senior citizens who’s on a fixed income and everything else going up because pensions not going up, salaries not going up…it’s kind of tough on us. It is really, really tough on us,” Younglao added.
She admitted, however, that the TTARP executive was yet to meet on the fee issue, along with other national issues that may have come up during the Budget presentation.
A senior citizen, who would only give her name as Sherry S, 69, of Carapichaima, yesterday questioned, “How could the Government do this to us, the senior citizens?
“We are already under stress to pay for food, medicine (most times we do not get at the health facilities) and utility bills. The happy feelings we get when we use the ferry free of charge to us to go to Tobago and de-stress is now taken away from us,” Sherry S said.
“I feel heartbroken and disappointed to know that I can no longer afford the trip to Tobago. I am very sad. Could the Minister of Finance and his advisors please cancel that fee for us and bring back some joy and peace to us, their senior citizens,” she added.
Another senior, 60, from Chaguanas, who wished not to be named, described it as an “injustice.”
“I think it is a great injustice to implement a fee for senior citizens. Seniors once worked very arduous and contributed tremendously to nation-building. It’s only equitable that in their twilight stage of life they are given back something in return.”