|THE ENABLERS: FNPF board members from top left: Taito Waqa, Ajith Kodagoda (chairman), Tom Ricketts, Tevita Kuruvakadua and Sashi Singh.|
July 1 might as well as be April 1 or April Fool's Day: because that's the day Fiji workers officially get cheated out of their hard work by the new FNPF board, which plans to reduce pension rates from between 25% and 15% to just 9%.
In recent weeks, the ordinary worker and a range of groups have stood up for their rights and their savings, challenging the so-called reforms. Surprisingly, the Fiji media have been allowed to report the story, even the criticism.
Some good arguments have been made although the submissions are a total charade considering the "reforms" are scheduled to start next Friday. Only in Fiji, eh.
1) The Fiji Island Council of Trade Unions pushed the fact that under the proposed 9%, a retiring member with a healthy standing balance of $50,000 at the end of their working life would merely receive $86.53 per week. It rightly asks: Why the big rush and how can a family live on such small income? The union highlights the fact that if a pensioner passes away after the first year in retirement, he loses all unless he took a joint pension in which case his pension would have been even lower at $80.76 per week. FICTU adds that the figures being used by FNPF to justify it's reduction of the pension reforms is flawed.
2) James Raman was a FNPF board member for 35 years and was on the board when the pension scheme was introduced. An 'oldie,' he says he's had sleepless nights since the pension cuts were announced: "In my case if the reduction is as proposed I will suffer a loss of 64 per cent of my present pension. This kind of drastic cut will no doubt have a traumatic effect on us oldies, both physically and psychologically."
3) Pramod Rae, National Secretary of Fiji's Bank and Finance Sector Employees Union: "We suspect that to a large extent these errors were committed by really an incompetent Board and management and there needs to be a full inquiry, full disclosure as to what went wrong, and to improve on its investment activities. The FNPF itself constitutes, or the funds there constitute, around 60% of Fiji's GDP. We say that that is too large a volume to be restricted to one institution. It is time to de-monopolise FNPF and allow other financial institutions to enter the superannuation market and creating competition will force creativity in investment and looking for higher returns and bring FNPF back to sustainability."
Who is to blame for the state FNPF (or the Fiji National Propaganda Fund as we're calling it) is in? Not the innocent members, who had no control in the $300,000,000 dollars write off for Momi Bay and Natadola, that's for sure.
Coup after coup, diplomatic spats after diplomatic spats - from the father who goes down thousands of metres underground at the gold mine at Vatukoula to the mother who after sending her three kids off to school takes herself to work, it is the workers who have contributed every cent to their only form of retirement savings via the FNPF. It is the workers who have trusted government after government and FNPF boards to keep their money safe until they reach retirement age.
Since Frank Bainimarama's illegal takeover in 2006, Fiji has slid backwards - internationally, with the loss of aid and opportunities, the devaluation of the dollar, high inflation, loss in millions dollars of worker's superannuation and now these reforms. Could this be the last spade of dirt to finally put Fiji six feet under?
1) Read FICTU submission
2) Read James Raman's piece
3) Read Pramod Rae's interview with Pacific Beat.http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201106/s3250875.htm
4) Pension Sustainability Powerpoint Presentation