A laudable initiative finally takes off
We applaud the authorities for finally launching the long-awaited Universal Pension Scheme, which is aimed at ensuring income security for about 100 million beneficiaries. Such an initiative was long overdue given the increasing number of elderly people in the country. According to an estimate of the Finance Department of the Ministry of Finance, the number of people over 60 years of age were 12 million in 2020, which will be 31 million in 2041. Therefore, we hope that this scheme will help them have a financially secure life.
Reportedly, all individuals between 18 and 50 can participate in this scheme, including expatriate Bangladeshis. Those over 50 years of age will also be able to participate under special consideration. There will be different packages for different segments of the population, including Progoti, Probash, Shurokkha and Samata. These packages are available to anyone except government employees. While the Pragati package is for the employees of private organisations, the Probash package is for the expatriates. The self-employed and informal-sector workers like farmers, rickshaw pullers and day labourers can participate in Surokkha, and the ultra-poor can participate in Samata, with a monthly instalment of Tk 1,000.
All these seem to be quite well thought out, but we will have to wait to see how they work out in the long run. The Samata package, in particular, seems to be quite a good one since its beneficiaries will have to pay Tk 500 as a monthly instalment, and the remaining Tk 500 will be covered by the government. However, those participating in this package will reportedly not be considered for benefits under the social safety net programmes. This may potentially discourage a section of the ultra-poor.
So while we appreciate the authorities for rolling out the country's first-ever pension scheme, we urge them to proceed with caution, iron out all tricky and unresolved issues, and prevent the scope of misgivings and irregularities. They must ensure transparency and accountability in every step of the process for the scheme to be successful.