Interesting ideas were raised during the debate in parliament in Dodoma last week on the bill to amend a number of laws to enable the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA) to supervise and control the sector more efficiently.
Among the main changes is the bringing of the various funds under one ministry, namely Labour and Employment, harmonising their legal framework, and through SSRA, setting the benefit calculation formulae, issuing regulations, conducting actuarial valuation, compliance and other functions.
The changes focused on ensuring that through SSRA the social security funds are made more sustainable, interests of members are protected, there is increased coverage and reduction of the burden to the government and that eventually every Tanzanian becomes a member of a social security scheme.
Indeed there are MPs who proposed that social security fund members be eligible for loans from the schemes they contribute to in order to improve their well-being before they retire.
Of course the proposal that should be food for thought for policy makers is how to realise the universal pension scheme, envisioned in the Social Security Laws and touched on by the shadow minister for Labour and Employment David Silinde.
The MP said there were 2.1 million elders countrywide and that 82 percent of them were living in rural areas.
“Until now only 4 percent of all the elders are pensionable, having been employed previously. Two thirds of those getting pension are men,” he said.
The shadow minister pointed out that 96 percent of all elders, majority of them farmers and livestock keepers have no pension though they are contributing heavily to the development of the nation.
He said the opposition wanted the government to grant a pension of at least 20,000/- per month to each elder in order to help them cope with the difficult lives they are leading.
This proposal and that of making the funds do more for their members when they are still on active duty and take care of them after they retire are timely and crucial in enhancing the funds existence.
This is even more relevant now, when the law has allowed opening up of the funds to recruitment of membership from the market.
Much as there are fears that such a move could lead to the demise of some of the funds due to some members moving out, we are sure that those whose schemes prove beneficial to members will thrive.
But even more importantly, those being deserted will be forced to sit up and find ways of retaining members.
A frustration which also surfaced during the debate was the poor service offered by some funds to their retired members on some untenable excuse or other. It is our hope that this situation will be sorted out soonest.
It is important to realise that just as there are many potential members out there, waiting to join a social security scheme, so are there possibilities to create many more funds, provided they can live up to the expectations of their members.
The challenge therefore will be for the funds under the watchful eye of SSRA to come up with sustainable schemes that will attract and retain members by rewarding them fairly.