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A glimmer of hope in the pension scheme for all

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A small portion of the country’s working population enjoys financial security after retirement. A large part of the workforce works in the informal sector. Apart from this, there is no such financial security for private sector workers apart from the government. The biggest news for them this year was the universal pension scheme.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Universal Pension Scheme on August 17 this year. After that, there have been various discussions about it in various circles. However, starting from economists, people of various classes and professions have finally taken the matter positively.

This scheme is aimed at the ability, security, mental and financial security of the elderly people of the country in their final life. Except government employees, any citizen of Bangladesh above 18 years of age can participate in the pension scheme.

How the universal pension scheme was launched

About the initial journey of universal pension system, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to introduce a universal pension system nationally to ensure economic and social security of the elderly population of the country in the 2008 election manifesto. Following this, a participatory pension system was proposed in 2015.

Then in 2018, the Awami League government announced a pension scheme for all types of informal sectors, including public and private, in the manifesto given in the 11th national parliament election. In the proposed budget for 2017-18, the then Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith outlined a universal pension scheme.

Later on June 9 last year, in the proposed budget of the financial year 2022-23 in the National Parliament, from 2023, the Finance Department ‘Universal Pension Management Bill 2022’ to ensure a pension and well-organized social security for the elderly population due to unemployment, disease, disability, poverty due to old age and increase in average life expectancy of the people of Bangladesh. Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal outlined it. On 20th of the same month, the cabinet gave final approval to the draft law. Later on August 29 it was taken up in the National Assembly. Then the Finance Minister proposed to pass the bill in the Parliament session on January 24, 2023. It was also passed by voice vote. The bill is then sent to the President for his signature.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the inauguration of this universal pension scheme on August 17 this year after the signature of the President. Registration starts from that day. It was launched keeping in mind about 10 crore people of the country.

Who is the pension scheme for?

People between 18 and 50 years of age can come under the universal pension scheme introduced for the first time in Bangladesh as per national identity card except government employees. National identity card is required to be a part of this program. However, Bangladeshi expatriates who do not have a national identity card can register with a passport if they wish. In that case, a copy of the national identity card must be collected and submitted within a short period of time.

Also, those who are over 50 years of age can also participate in the universal pension scheme. In this case, they will get pension after 10 consecutive years of contribution.

Universal Pension Scheme

Out of the six schemes announced by the government, the journey of universal pension system has started. Two more schemes will be launched later at a convenient time. The schemes in place are — ‘Progress’ for private sector employees, ‘Sukraksha’ for the informal sector, ‘Prabasi’ for those living abroad and ‘Samata’ for the very poor.

How much pension for how much contribution

Immigration Scheme: Any Bangladeshi citizen residing or working abroad can come under this scheme by paying the amount of subscription in foreign currency equivalent to the amount mentioned in the schedule.

Progression Scheme: An employee working in a private organization or the owner of the said organization can participate in the Pragati scheme by contributing at the rates mentioned in the schedule. In case of this scheme, 50 percent of the contribution will be paid by the employee and the remaining 50 percent by the institution. However, if a private organization does not participate in the scheme institutionally, any employee working in the organization can participate in the scheme on a self-initiated basis.

Progress Scheme.  Photo: Independent Television

Protection Scheme: Informal sector or self-employed persons; Professionals such as farmers, rickshaw pullers, labourers, blacksmiths, potters, fishermen etc. can come under this scheme by paying the rates mentioned in the schedule.

protection scheme.  Photo: Independent Television

Equivalence Scheme: Those living below the poverty line (whose current income is less than 60,000 rupees per annum) on the basis of age limit can participate in this scheme by contributing at the rates mentioned in the schedule.

Equivalence scheme.  Photo: Independent Television

How to open the scheme

The agency responsible for the management and implementation of the pension system is the National Pension Authority under the Finance Department. The Pension Authority website was launched on August 16 this year. First go to this website to register for Public Pension Scheme. The online form has to be filled with detailed information including National Identity Card number, date of birth, mobile number and e-mail address. Apart from this, one can directly go to any branch of Sonali Bank to register in the pension scheme and also pay the subscription. Mobile Financial Services (MFS) institutions also have the option of making subscriptions. 500 to a maximum of 10 thousand taka per month can be paid. At least 10 years must be deposited to get pension benefits.

BENEFITS OF PUBLIC PENSION SCHEME

Joining the universal pension scheme will provide lifelong pension benefits from the age of 60. If the subscriber dies after paying the prescribed amount, his heirs will get this pension for 15 years. But if a private citizen joins this program at the age of 18 years, he will get the most benefit. As the age increases, the benefit increases at a proportional rate.

If a pensioner dies before the age of 75 years, his nominee will get the pension for the remaining period. And if a pensioner dies before 10 years of contribution, the deposit along with profit will be given to the nominee. Apart from this, a maximum of 50 percent of the deposit can be taken as a loan based on the subscription application. Later it has to be paid along with the prescribed fee. Pension contribution will be considered tax deductible as investment consideration. The monthly pension will be income tax free.

But if one fails to pay the contribution for three consecutive times, his pension account will be suspended. Thereafter the account will not be opened until the due installments are paid. Apart from this, in case of failure to pay the installments on the specified date, payment can be made without penalty up to the next month. One can pay installments in advance if he wants.

But there is a question in the mind of many about the pension scheme, will the money be available in the end?

In this regard, the Finance Minister said, ‘There is no reason to be worried about it. Because the government itself is guaranteeing it.’



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