The government's great initiative-universal pension scheme which initially piqued much enthusiasm among people--- seems to have received lukewarm response during the first month since its inception in August 17, this year. According to the National Pension Authority that is now in charge of the scheme, little less than 13,000 people were enrolled during the period depositing a total of Tk 7.7 crore.
A number of reasons could be cited for this tepid feedback from the people. The first and foremost one is that the government has done very little to make people understand the pros of this social protection programme by enumerating the future benefits of the universal pension scheme. There was also lack of promotional campaigns through different media like seminars, symposiums, conferences and public gatherings to tout various policies of the scheme among the people of the far-flung areas of the country.
Another reason is that in our labyrinthine bureaucratic government administration, people have a doubt about smooth and silo less functioning of a system or organization if it is fully controlled by the government. For instance, even government employees still experience and face numerous challenges and obstacles at the time of withdrawing their pension money after their retirement.
Now the question is when government employees have to run from pillar to post to get back their deposited money, then what will happen to the policy holders of the universal pension scheme which has not yet come under a separate authority or entity? Although a National Pension Authority has been formed, its financial activities will be temporarily conducted through Sonali Bank.
For such a colossal pension scheme that is supposed to attract several crores of people except government employees, there is a need of an army of work force to operate the systems from different perspectives as the universal pension scheme has a number of policies for various categories of people. Even any recruitments or training arrangements for the manpower to run the scheme have not been heard until now.
Another important factor is that the scheme has been aimed at ensuring the social security of the disadvantaged, the helpless and the elderly citizens who are mostly unaware of what the universal pension scheme would bring them in their twilight years. It has possibly failed to win the trust of common people the way the government expected in the beginning. The scheme must be more transparent and its policies should be easy to understand to even laymen.
We are in belief that sooner or later every citizen of the country should come under the universal pension scheme since Bangladesh has been hurtling into a 'Smart' country as such 'protection' scheme has been in place in many developed countries. What needs to be done right now is to build the universal pension scheme as a separate entity with an adequate skilled work force.
Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka.
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