Saturday August 12 2017

Pension sector opening to bring several occupational schemes

By Joshua Onyait

There was a fighter who joined a boxing club. He met many skilled boxers and quickly thought to himself as the best of them all. He soon realised there were more chiselled and stronger fighters in the club.
They had very good statistics and belts to their names. So he quickly arched up a plan to scare the other fighters. He waited after others had all finished the day’s training; he entered the ring and started to throw jabs in the air.
He increased his intensity and with lots of sweat breaking through the brow of his face, he jumped as though a winner in a real fight. Hoisted his hands in the air and screamed, “Who is next?” Startled and wondering what he meant by who is next?
The coach stood up, looked at him and walked away. Wondering why the coach walked away, he asked one of the guys what had just happened. “Get a real opponent to fight with rather than shadow box with the air and declare yourself a winner,” replied one of the fighters.
The current debate on whether the pension’s liberalisation Bill should be passed or not is something on the menu for many workers, pensioners and the general public and many are weighing in on the subject.
However, Mr Wilson Owere of NOTU wrote a missive in the New Vision of July 21, attacking several entities and persons without any fact. He uses Crane Bank as an example and asking if it was a private pension provider, how one’s savings would be at risk.
Well Mr Owere, the largest portion of NSSF fixed deposits were with Crane Bank. More than Shs60 billion and while the Central Bank and Crane Bank are currently embroiled in a court battle to recover this money, the Central Bank assures the public that their shock absorbers are intact and no saver has lost money. In simple terms, there might have been fraud, but then the measures to ensure no loses are intact. Just because an airplane poses a risk of crashing during flight doesn’t mean people should not fly.
Mr Owere as a worker knows that the regulator has instituted mechanisms to absorb and damp crash impulses in order to assuage any crashes. So as he went on to criticise many regulators such as Bank of Uganda and Uganda Retirement Benefits Authority, the NSSF Board, in which you put all your trust, is more porous. It is very clear that the workers representatives were not subjected to a proper test, but are politically covered in terms of enrolment showing that they are not properly tested through plausible recruitment process.
It is also very unfair to pick on the Uganda Retirement Benefits Authority chairman, Mr Andrew Kasirye, who is an accomplished lawyer, a person of sound mind and right thinking citizen. Much as you say he deals with some banks which are also pension fund custodians through his legal firm, you didn’t mention that his firm is also on the NSSF panel of lawyers. Was that an oversight on your side? Selective memory? One very big fact that you totally confused and misled many workers is that NSSF actually spends more than Shs65 billion to manage its affairs, not Shs4 billion as you put it. It’s also true that if this Fund was a private scheme, less would be spent.
Mr Owere warns Ugandans against allowing foreigners to manage their funds. But does he know that NSSF’s fund managers are Stanlib Uganda Limited and Pinebridge Investments East Africa Limited and they are all foreign. What have your five representatives on the NSSF Board done to “help”?
My question would be, if NSSF is using foreign service providers that you are somnolent about, who are regulated by UBRBA that you mistrust yet you say NSSF is safe… who exactly are you fighting? Aren’t you shadow boxing in the ring alone? Do you want to chest-thump in front of your peers for victory you have not earned? But liberalisation brings about two main changes:
Instead of one scheme, there will be several occupational schemes. And they will use the same pool of service providers that NSSF chooses from.
All the new schemes will have trustees and these trustees will be the same workers of these companies. And most importantly, they are the real owners of the money, with non-unionised workers, controlling their money directly at their place of work.

Mr Onyait is a worker and a citizen of Uganda and a practicing business

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