Jamaica News,Kingston: Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Fayval Williams, has emphasised the importance of sound pension governance in safeguarding the interest of persons saving for retirement.
Speaking at NCB Insurance Company (NCBIC) Limited’s pension seminar, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, on May 29, the Minister said pension schemes are pivotal in facilitating the seamless transition from employment to retirement, adding that the funds accumulated can also influence the capital markets of the economies in which they are invested.
The Minister argued that the extent to which pension funds impact the lives of beneficiaries and economies, “the governance framework must be a key consideration for trustees, managers and anyone who has responsibility for any aspect of their company’s pension commitments.”
Mrs. Williams pointed out that sound pension plan governance facilitates well- informed decisions that meet the requisite prudency standard, as stipulated by law, while helping to minimise financial risks.
She contended that these safeguards are key elements for the sustainability and longevity of any financial sector, of which the pension industry is a part.
Mrs. Williams said the Government has, in this regard, ensured that the principles of the local pension industry’s effective governance, characterised by accountability, openness, responsiveness and transparency, are being exercised by the Financial Services Commission (FSC).
She pointed out that the FSC is mandated to regulate and supervise the industry, noting that the Commission’s remit includes: approval and registration of superannuation funds, retirement schemes, trustees and responsible officers as well as licensing of administrators and investment managers.
In this regard, the Minister said the FSC’s oversight is essential in protecting pension beneficiaries, and pivotal in directly supporting a robust and unwavering industry, adding that the Commissioner is also charged with promoting compliance with the provisions of the Pensions Act and its attendant regulations.
Mrs. Williams said that effecting sound governance and adherence to the law is not solely the FSC’s responsibility, noting that it also lies with the trustees, their agents, administrators and investment managers.
“It is therefore vital that these parties operate in an ethical manner by faithfully discharging their fiduciary and other responsibilities. Trustees must, therefore, keep beneficiaries up to date about their benefits and not withhold any information. Additionally, it requires an enabling environment in which pertinent information is effectively issued and people can respond in an unconstrained and truthful manner,” she said.
In this regard, Mrs. Williams lauded NCBIC’s management on its pension scheme arrangement, noting that they can “attest to operating with good governance.”
The Minister said NCBIC has steered its pension funds in the “right direction” and, in so doing, has been bestowed with accolades.
These, Mrs. Williams pointed out, include: the 2010 and 2011 World Finance Global Pension Funds Award, and Best Pension Funds in the Caribbean from 2015 to 2017.
In his remarks, NCBIC Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Vernon James, also underscored the importance of pension funds in retirement planning, adding that it as against this background that Tuesday’s seminar was staged.
“It is no secret that proper preparation for pension is vital. We, therefore, see the need to (continuously) highlight the importance of preparing and making wise decisions for retirement,” he said.
Mr. James lauded the Government on its decision to reform the laws and introduce new policies to improve the industry’s governance framework and arrangements through legislation.
These, he reiterated, are the Pensions (Public Service) Act 2017, and Constitution (Amendment) (Establishment Fund) (Payment of Pensions) Act 2017, which will mandate pensionable public service officers to contribute five per cent of their salaries towards a pension.
The Pensions (Public Service) Act 2017 aims to establish a segregated fund for contributions and gradually increase the retirement age to 65.
The Constitution Amendment Establishment Fund (Payment of Pensions) Act, 2017 seeks to amend the Constitution to provide for the payment of pensions, gratuities and allowances out of the pension fund.
“These two Bills seek to provide an improved pension system for workers… and we are pleased about the direction of this reform,” Mr. James said.
The seminar was held under the theme: ‘Governance for Pension Funds – a Jamaican Perspective’.
Source: JIS News