‘Small is big for pensioners’

By Weekly Trust

The title of this piece is in quotation marks because it is exactly a quote from a group of pensioners who were discussing their yesterday as workers and their today as retirees.

The discussion was not on delayed payment of their pension. It was not focused on criticising or commending the National Pension Commission (PenCom). It was not about Pension Transitional Arrangement Department (PTAD)’s symbolic trip to Bonny Island to verify a 90-year old pensioner and capture his biometrics.

They were not even discussing the Global Conference on Pension and Savings organised by the World Bank Group, which will end today. It is too remote and abstract for them.

Incidentally, one of the main sessions at the Conference in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund facilities in Washington DC was on deciding the best way to persuade or cajole the self-employed operating the informal side of national economies, especially in the developing world, to ‘voluntarily’ open Retirement Savings Accounts. The accounts would, of course, be managed on their behalf by Fund Management experts!

On Day One on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, Session 4 of the Conference dwelt on: ‘Persuasion or compulsion? Pension policy makers seeking to expand coverage need to strike the right balance between making pensions mandatory, using new techniques like auto-enrolment and innovative approaches to get the best results when participation and contributions are voluntary.’

The Pension Reform Act 2014 has smartly legitimised the enrolment of the self-employed and workers in businesses with just three employees into the Scheme.

‘But their low and irregular income,’ PenCom says, ‘created a need to provide a pension plan that would meet their special characteristics.’

The Micro Pension Plan is it. The plan tallies with the objectives of Session 4 at the Washington Global Conference.

While PenCom is working to achieve that, the pensioners who were discussing other matters under a huge tree, may be totally unaware of this particular initiative.

The pensioners were reflecting on their spending on non-essentials while in paid jobs. They regularly brainstorm on how to live within their ‘small’ pension stipends. They often admit that their current meagre monthly pension, which for most is below the minimum wage, is big after all, if applied prudently.

One of them proudly said that he is a shoe maker and trader in second hand clothes. The one sitting next to him has three small income streams by selling sugarcane, sweet-potato and garden eggs. Both look healthy and well-fed.

The man sitting to the left of the last speaker said he is now a tailor, has saved money and was planning to start trading in foodstuff, especially cassava meals.

The one in a starched shirt announced that he sold his holding in a trending Bank that made huge profit by speculating in the deregulated foreign currency market. He wants invest the proceeds in the hospitality industry.

I could no longer remain a listener to the useful conversation. So I ‘put my mouth’ by suggesting that if any of them scans the economic environment with a clear intention to identify and select a micro, small or even medium business to start, chances are that he may end up finding tomorrow ‘s blue chip company.

One of them smiled, glared at me intensely and mockingly said: ‘You are a journalist. Tell me the business you will start and grow it to a blue chip level.’

I hesitated.

By all indications he has retired earlier than me and seems to be more experienced in managing the challenges of being in retirement than me. But I have to respond.

‘Start a chain of shops selling the best ‘soborodo’ (red hibiscus flower) drink in the world. Give customers the option to buy chilled ‘kunu’ at affordable prices,’ I said smiling.

‘That is the beginning of your future blue chip business,’ I concluded.

This article provided by NewsEdge.