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Fitz Jackson, Minister of State for Finance and Planning, has said that government would be embarking on a major public education campaign to sensitize persons about the importance of joining a pension scheme.
Minister Jackson, who was a panelist at the Jamaica National Fund Managers (JNFM) pension fund seminar, held on Thursday (March 23) at the Hilton Kingston, informed that Daisy Coke of Coke & Associates, was one of the persons contracted to lead the public education programme.
He said that the aim of the campaign was to encourage persons to plan for retirement. He noted that many persons, on retirement, actually slipped into poverty because of the non-provision for an income after they have stopped working.
“We have started an exercise, but I will admit that we have just begun to scratch the surface. In fact, it has to be a massive public education programme, starting in the workplaces and even going to the schools and universities, so that people can begin to develop a culture in their minds of seeing pension as a provision for retirement and something they need to make a sacrifice for in their early working years,” he stated.
The Finance State Minister further charged persons to be more responsible in their statements on government’s move to reform the country’s pensions system.
“You can’t get up in public and make statement like ‘government is trying to take away people’s pension money’. Those kind of reckless statements does not help.it only helps to create a fear in the minds of ordinary persons,” he stated.
He clarified that, “government has no intention of taking away the pensioners money. Even in the whole process of regulation, fees collected from the industry go exclusively to the regulation of the industry. Not a penny out of the pension fund goes into the consolidated fund of the government.”
While the government has come up with a fee structure for the industry regulator, the Financial Services Commission (FSC), Mr. Jackson said, “we have said to the stakeholders in many of our discussions that as we go forward, wherever and whenever we can reduce those fees, that will be done as was done already with general insurance.
“Our books are open and will be open in respect of the cost of the management of the pension industry,” he told the gathering, adding that what was budgeted and targeted for the regulator was a small fraction of what other professions in the industry charge pension funds today.”
Executive Director of the FSC, Brian Wynter, while commending the government’s move to launch a public education campaign on pensions, said it was “important for the pension participants, trustees and others in the sector, to join in the effort to bring more understanding (of the industry),” he said.
He noted that the FSC, as regulators, also had a duty to sensitize the public about the regulatory process.
Meanwhile, Monica Ladd, partner at Myers, Fletcher and Gordon, explained that the Pensions Act, which was passed in the Senate last week, had not replaced the long-standing pension provisions in the Income Tax Act, but had instead added another regulator and an additional set of rules with more requirements, which trustees must satisfy.