In the Federal Government, pension is the defined benefit and is currently admissible to the entitled employees and their family. The draft of amendments states suggestions and recommendations for existing pensioners/employees. The federal government has finally started implementing although in piecemeal manner — the long-awaited pension reforms as Pakistan’s pension liabilities spike by a hefty 44.4pc from the original estimate of Rs520bn for the present year to Rs751bn for next year. While little to no heed is paid to this problem, the bill keeps on ballooning year in year out. Over the last 12 years, Pakistan’s pension budget allocation has gone up by 500% exclusive of provincial pensions.
The government’s annual pension bill includes the increasing number of pensioners which is also emerging as a threat to Pakistan’s fiscal sustainability. The Pay and Pension Commissions have been invariably headed by retired people from various organizations/departments. They take their pension and are re-employed on hefty salaries. It is surprising that they should be preaching what they are not practicing. There are scores of retired people from a certain government department who head various organizations after retirement and enjoy both high perks as well as pensions. Unfortunately, the recommendation of cancelling out of the pensions, if offered more than one that is, should be followed and revised.
On top of that, despite tall claims of providing relief to the poor and rounding up the rich, the government has failed to do so with its own employees. With a flat 17.5% increment, the pension for 17-22 grade officers would increase at a much higher rate. Not to mention the compounded effect of these increments takes the pensions of some of the retired officers to an obscenely high level.
Pensions for retired government employees are a universal phenomenon and each country has its own rules and regulations. Most of the people join government service because besides job security, it is pensionable.
Moreover, every government employee who dies while on government duty is a ‘shaheed’. Shahadat is not confined to only those who fight or wear uniform. This is a wrong concept of martyrdom. We sincerely hope that people who are categorized in that regard are given the perks and benefits of pensions as well and the amendment should be enforced. The case of Shuhada and Army personnel is still catered for but war-wounded individuals or employees who go through severe trauma injuries should be looked after as well. It is truly heartbreaking witnessing someone’s career turn to nothing due to an injury or an illness which stops them from working. Such cases don’t particularly have solutions with the employee pension.
Another existing rule suggests that no retired government employee should be re-employed in the government sector. Our youth struggles with issues like unemployment severely and so it is a bit unfair for employees to have an edge over the new intake or fresh graduates.
Family pension should not be of 10 years only since there might be people depending on it or just the wife too after a spouse’s passing. The policy should not be extended for a lifetime only in the case of special child or disabled one. It should be for a lifetime regardless of the conditions provided in the amendment column. For a widow with children or without would be very hard to sustain.
With the rest of the world moving on from this contributory schemes and pension funds, it is high time Pakistan also made strides in this direction to control this ever-growing national liability. In my opinion, the defined contribution pension plan is a great way of dealing with pension problems. This is a type of pension where the amount you get when you retire depends on how much you put in and how much this money grows. Your pension pot is built from your contributions and your employer’s contributions (if applicable) plus investment returns and tax relief. It saves a good amount for retirement and gives an opportunity to start over with things. A salary alone may not be sufficient for future times to come.
MS GPP, S3H, NUST, Islamabad.