Rising poverty

RISING poverty and inequality in Pacific economies has led to emphasis on social protection systems covering health insurance, pensions, the informal sector, targeted measures.

And the adequate levels of social protection are said to elude many in the region.

These will be discussed tomorrow at the Fiji National Provident Fund and the Asian Development Bank joint two-day workshop at the Grand Pacific Hotel as both institutions celebrate their respective 50th anniversaries.

In session one of day one, there will be discussion on topics such as “Old Age Poverty, Social Protection Systems and Pensions Finance”.

“Pension schemes are reputed to be under-developed relative to old age needs. Support for the retired comes from traditional, informal, family or kinship-based systems, the bank said. It says the pensions systems that are in place typically take the form of a contribution-based national provident fund schemes.

“Continuing debates exist about participation/contribution rates, investment mandates, and the efficiency of operations in existing pension fund schemes.

“There is debate too about variable eligibility standards across the whole spectrum of income support schemes.”

It adds, some say that resulting higher transaction costs impose barriers on the levels of support to all of the vulnerable populations.

Some of the key issues that will be discussed include assessing the affordability and effectiveness of social protection in the Pacific, the role of pension systems in the economy, inclusion and coverage of pensions systems, investment mandates/opportunities of pensions’ funds, development of capital markets and private sector pensions and special pension challenges of Pacific microstates.

The session two on governance, law and regulations will explore the differences between bank regulation and retirement fund regulation, as well as discussing the regulatory implications of provident funds providing financial services, such as loans to members, in addition to retirement products.

The objective is to raise awareness of the issues that concern regulators and those which are constraining the development of retirement funds.

Several country examples will be discussed from the perspective of regulators and fund managers.

This session will also underscore the importance of good corporate governance and illustrate how the development of robust internal policies and regulatory standards are mutually reinforcing.

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