India Study Tour on Pensions for Poor

India Study Tour on Pensions for Poor

Backdrop

The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) is likely to address reforms in the pension space for the Social Protection system. The Ministry of Finance wanted to review the experience in India with regard to reforming pensions for the formal public sector as well as the informal sector and the poor including issues revolving around social protection reform. While the Government might consider financing options for civil servant pension liabilities, there is also a strong need felt for overall pension reform in the country including a large-scale formal private sector in Bangladesh and the vast Ready Made Garments informal sector that has no social security and pension provision that could help to prevent at-risk, low-paid workers from falling into poverty in old age.

The Government of Bangladesh is strongly committed to fight old age poverty and mitigate the risk of longevity by providing pension provision to the vast formal and informal sector. The systems and provision in Bangladesh are very similar to that of India which has had a decent beginning in providing contributory and co-contributory pension schemes to the vast informal sector poor workers. India has also taken a bold step in introducing systemic pension reforms and introduce co-contributory pensions for the informal sector workers that are highly relevant in the Bangladesh context and hence the knowledge-transfer and experiential learning from ‘what worked’ and ‘what failed’ in Indian pension reform context shall be of very high value in Bangladesh.

A key capacity development strategy of the SPFMSP project is to facilitate relevant key GoB officials to acquire knowledge and experience on the best global practices and reform initiatives in different areas of Social Protection.  The Project designed the Keeping this in view, the study tour to India for GoB officials with this in mind. was designed.

Purpose

Between 27th March and April 8th, 2016, a Study Tour to India was undertaken with and for Eight Government of Bangladesh officials of the Finance Division to study Indian Pension Reforms – its design, growth, development and current status with special emphasis on ‘Pensions for Poor’. The purpose of the study tour was to understand the policy, strategy and implementation perspectives of National Pension System (integrated with poor and informal sector workers) in India including the regulatory framework and institutional arrangements. It was aimed at experiential learning and applying the knowledge in designing a pension reform for the country that not only is pro-poor and inclusive in nature for the formal (employees) and informal sector but also covers systemic issues related to civil services pension in Bangladesh.

List of Officials

The following officials / personnel were part of the study tour to India

  1. A.R.M. Nazmus Sakib, Additional Secretary, Finance Division
  2. Md. Abdus Samad, Deputy Secretary, Finance Division
  3. Md. Golam Mostafa, Deputy Secretary, Finance Division
  4. Mohd. Rashedul Amin, Deputy Secretary, Finance Division
  5. Mohammad Saidul Islam, Senior Assistant Secretary, Finance Division
  6. Kazi Nahid Rasul, Senior Assistant Secretary, Finance Division
  7. Shaikh Qamrul Hasan, Chief Accounts Officer, Ministry of Post, Telecom & ICT,
  8. Sheikh Mohammad Omar Faruk, Chief Accounts Officer, Parliament Secretariat
  9. Kavim V Bhatnagar, Social Protection Economist, SPFMSP Project

Meetings in India

Following organizations / Individuals were met during the study tour

Sl. Name of Organization Relevance / Brief Function Location
1 Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance Policy Perspective of Financial Services including Pensions New Delhi
2 Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Dedicated and Statutory Regulator for National Pension System (NPS) New Delhi
3 National Pension Scheme – (NPS) Trust Supervises Pension Funds and interacts with intermediaries New Delhi
4 Gautam Bhardwaj Director Consultant, Pension Reforms in India New Delhi / Gurgaon
5 Dr. Shubashish Gangopadhyaya Director IDF and Former Advisor to Finance Minister New Delhi / Gurgaon
6 Central Pension Accounting Office Administers the ‘Scheme for Payment of Pensions to Central Government Civil Pensioners New Delhi
7 State Bank of India Central Pension Processing and Disbursement New Delhi
8 Punjab National Bank Pension Processing and Disbursing Agency New Delhi
9 State Government Pension Directorate Process and Disburse pension using the Treasury model Jaipur
10 State Insurance and Provident Fund Department Insurance, PF and the National Pension System (NPS) for Government Employees Jaipur
11 Regional Office State Government Pension Operations on Pension Processing Ajmer
12 Regional Office NPS Members Understand the Perspective of NPS for Members Ajmer
13 SHCI Points of Presence (POP) Frontend Services to new and existing members under the NPS (Not for Poor) Mumbai
14 Stock Holding Corporation of India Custodian for NPS – Security Holding for Pension Assets Mumbai
15 UTI Retirement Solutions Pension Fund Manager Mumbai
16 National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) Central Recordkeeping Agency for NPS Mumbai
17 Axis Bank Axis Bank as Trustee Bank Mumbai
18 LIC of India Annuity Service Provider for NPS Mumbai
19 Sewa Bank – POP and Aggregators under the NPS Caters to Co Contributory Pensions for the Poor Ahmedabad
20 Sewa Bank Field Visit Members – Poor Women from Informal Sector who Joined Micropensions Ahmedabad

 Key Results

The study tour on pension reforms in India was successfully accomplished with more than 16 meetings in five cities of India and presentations and interaction with 20 organizations. It ranged from meeting the officials of the Finance Ministry, Government of India, Chairman and other senior Directors of Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority, Officials of CGA and Central Pension Accounting Office, State Government officials, all regulated entities of the National Pension System (NPS) and Sewa Bank that promotes contributory pension for the poor. List of organizations met is provided in Annexure I.

At the policy and regulatory level, the team learned how pensions for poor workers in the informal sector progressed and graduated from a mere saving in a contributory micro pension scheme (2006 – 09) to the co-contribution top ups by the GoI under the Swawalamban (2010 – 14) and how this finally as on date transformed and graduated into a guarantee based Atal Pension Yojana (2015 onwards). The team understood that even when India initially considered such ideas and experimented with such schemes over a decade and learned from each of them, the GoB could leapfrog and cultivate the best practices learned and adopt the same for poor according to their needs.

The focus of the team was on enriching knowledge about the micro pensions for poor and learning from the Indian experience on designing and implementing contributory and co-contributory pensions for the poor. The team also visited Sewa Bank in Ahmedabad which pioneered the micro pension movement a decade ago with thousands of women creating their individual pension accounts and saving a dollar a month exclusively for their old age. The team also met some of the members of the micro pensions who were poor women belonging to the Informal Sector and are part of the National Pension Scheme. By and large, there was learning from the knowledge and experiences of Indian pension reforms which is inclusive in nature and targets the poor.