Universal pension scheme likely to be launched this month

An elderly ethnic woman returning home after collecting paddy from the jhum fields in Simanapara area of Dighinala upazila in Khagrachhari
Nerob Chowdhury

A pilot project of the universal pension scheme is likely to be inaugurated in August despite the lack of preparation to introduce the scheme.

The finance division of the finance ministry will announce the date to inaugurate the project after receiving an appointment of the prime minster it sought.

The National Pension Authority (NPA) is tasked with implementing the universal pension scheme, but the NPA still has no office and human resources. Additional deputy secretary of the finance division Kabirul Ezdani Khan has been made the chairman of the NPA. He is serving the NPA in an additional capacity.

Kabirul Ezdani Khan told Prothom Alo over mobile phone, “We have sought the appointment of the prime minister and the inauguration date can be announced after receiving her appointment.”

According to sources involved in the pension programme, the scheme will be inaugurated at the end of August. Finance secretary Fatima Yasmin will join the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as one of its six deputy managing directors. The finance division is trying to launch the pension scheme before she joins the ADB.

Earlier, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal hoped during his budget speech for the 2023-24 finance year that a universal pension scheme will be introduced in the country in the first month of the on-going fiscal.

Preparation yet to complete

Sources said the National Pension Authority will sign memorandum of understanding (MoU) with five other government organisations. They are: election commission, Department of Immigration and Passports, Office of the Registrar General, Birth and Death Registration, Sonali Bank Limited and Bangladesh Data Center Company Limited.

Draft of these MoUs has already been prepared and those will be signed after availing an appointment of the prime minister.

People concerned said the pension scheme will not be implemented by signing MoUs only, it is also necessary to make progress on the work on application programming interface (API), which allows two or more computer programmes to communicate with each other.

There will be no cash transaction in pension scheme and all transaction will be made online.

Draft of gazettes on three guidelines on employee recruitment, eligibility and registration process, and pension scheme have already been prepared. These gazettes will be issued before introducing the pension scheme.

First people to enjoy pension scheme

At first, the government announced that people aged 18-50 years would be brought under the coverage of the universal pension scheme, but the government later decided to relax the age limit to bring the people aged over 50.

At present, four categories of people -- expatriate Bangladeshis, private service holders, workers of informal sectors and insolvent people, will be brought under the coverage of the pension scheme.

The monthly fee is likely to be Tk 500-5,000, and there will be opportunity to increase the scheme and the amount of fee.

Meanwhile, the public administration ministry has taken an initiative to form an independent insurance company for the government employees just before the launch of the universal pension scheme. The insurance company may be formed under the Bangladesh Employees Welfare Board.

The public administration ministry sent letter to all secretaries, divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners and upazila nirbahi officers on 3 August on this, asking them to give opinion by 27 August.

Experts, however, raised questions on the formation of a separate insurance company for government employee since there is a state-owned insurance company, Jiban Bima Corporation, and a universal pension scheme is on the offing.

Chairman of banking and insurance department at Dhaka University Hasina Sheykh told Prothom Alo it needs to be understood why such initiative to set up a new insurance company for government employees was taken at this time.