Speakers call for reforms in current pension system of the country

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Zubair Qureshi

Bringing reforms about pensions is an urgent need to ensure a sustainable fiscal at federal as well as at provincial levels.

Speakers said this while sharing their views with the participants during the online dialogue ‘Reform of Pensions: Lessons from Successful Examples in Pakistan’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in collaboration with Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED).

Former head of Federal Pay and Pension Commission, Mr Wajid Rana has said that any pension reforms cannot be separated from pay reforms.

Both pay and pension bills are growing at a rapid pace and more is being consumed from the general revenue collections due to this increase, he added.

Joint Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Department, Sheena Ali Mansoor said Employees Old Age Benefit (EOBI) had huge potential which is not being used.

Currently, EOBI is dealing with the formal sector only. However, efforts are being made to cover the informal sector and Overseas Pakistanis as well.

She added further that there were three ways to increase funds I.e., through contribution, investments, and government support.

Besides, EOBI has 8 million registered pensioners and there are lots of ghost pensioners which are required to be purged out.

Hasaan Khawar, Team Lead, SEED, was of the view that pension was highly critical to Pakistan’s fiscal sustainability and probably, a new IMF programme would be dealing with this issue.

He added further that the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has started focusing on pensions reforms as in coming years, the provincial government would not be able to pay salaries and pensions and similar is the situation of other provinces.

Therefore, we need to address this problem politically, administratively, and technically, he added.

Zafar Masud, President, Bank of Punjab, highlighted that there is no argument that a pension fund was needed to be developed in Pakistan. Fund management is important, and it could be done involving the private sector.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, covered various aspects of the topic and said that the pension budget at the federal level has seen a growth of over 20 percent annually during the last five years.

For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, provincial budget the pensions have grown 10 times between 2010 and 2019, which is faster than the growth of overall revenues of the province.

He said that an evaluation is needed to identify difficulties in implementing various reconditions.

Such discourse therefore aims to bring together government officials and independent experts to highlight fiscal policy challenges, he added.

Managing Director, Pak Telecom Employees Trust, Hamid Farooq, opined that the government in the short run needs to workout on data of beneficiaries, analyse its pensions’ liabilities and then make an independent organization by adding relevant stakeholders.

Syed Nayyar Hussain, Director, Policy Regulation and Development Department, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, emphasized that the government needs to develop a holistic pension scheme covering social pensions, government pensions and individual pensions.