Bangladesh parliament passes universal pension scheme for people aged between 18-50

The scheme would cover all citizens except civil servants who are already covered by public pensions

Parliament Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 24 Jan 2023, 09:23 PM
Updated : 24 Jan 2023, 09:23 PM

A Bangladeshi citizen has to pay premiums for at least ten years to become a pension recipient under a new government scheme, and people aged over 18 years to a maximum 50-year-old can sign up for the scheme.

The terms, as mentioned earlier, were set as the central qualifier for a Bangladeshi citizen, regardless of profession, to become a recipient under the new pension scheme, which was introduced on Tuesday after a bill in this regard was ratified by the parliament.

The bill, styled Universal Pension Management Bill, was tabled by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on the floor and passed accordingly. The bill will now be sent to the president for his consent.

The scheme would cover all citizens except civil servants who are already covered by public pensions. However, a provision is kept in the bill which says civil servants may be able to join the scheme if the government allows them at some point.

THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL

  • Premiums for ten years need to be paid to be eligible for receiving the pension.

  • Anyone aged over 18 to the maximum age of 50 can sign up for the scheme.

  • A special provision for above 50-year-old people to join the scheme was included in the bill.

  • Expat Bangladeshis can join the scheme.

  • There will be multiple ways to pay the premiums- monthly, quarterly, in instalments or in advance

  • Signing up for the scheme will remain optional until the government issues a gazette notification to make it mandatory for everyone.

  • The policyholder will start receiving the pension as soon as they turn 60 and will continue receiving the benefit until their death.

  • If a pension recipient dies before the age of 75, the nominee of the recipient will be able to withdraw the pension for the remainder of the period.

  • The nominee of a policyholder will receive the total amount of paid premiums along with interest if the said policyholder dies before the threshold of 10 years.

  • If a policyholder anyone wants to borrow against the policy, he or she can withdraw a maximum of 50 percent of the total amount of paid premiums and will have to pay it back with interest.

  • Public, semi-public, sovereign and private organisations will be allowed to become a part of the scheme. In such cases, the amount of the premiums will be determined by the authorities of the respective organisation.

  • The pension amount will not be subjected to taxation. The premiums will be considered as an investment; hence it will not be subjected to taxation either.

  • The government would contribute to paying premiums for low-income individuals and people under the poverty level. The contribution to the pension fund will be means-tested, where eligibility will depend on the individual's financial condition and income level.

The minimum deposit amount will be determined later after founding a five-member National Pension Authority, headed by an executive chairman.

The authority will have a 16-strong governing body, with the finance minister as its chief.

The other governing body members include the Bangladesh Bank governor, finance secretary, Financial Institutions Division secretary, NBR chairman, social welfare secretary, secretary at the woman and child affairs ministry, expatriates welfare and overseas employment secretary, labour and employment secretary, posts and telecommunications division secretary, Prime Minister’s Office secretary, SEC chairman, FBCCI president, Bangladesh Employers Federation president and the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry president.

NOT EVERYONE ENDORSED THE BILL

Gono Forum lawmaker Mokobbir Khan, while taking part in the discussion before the ratification of the bill, praised the initiative but indicated that he had some reservations about the scheme's success.

“It’s not very clear how people will get their returns. It sounds more like packages offered by banks. Public opinion should have been solicited before this bill was tabled,” he said.

Criticising the bill, Jatiya Party MP Fakhrul Imam said that this bill was contradictory to the essence of the constitution.

“The constitution states that it is the right of the people to get assistance from the government due to uncontrollable causes such as unemployment, sickness or infirmity or widowhood, orphans or old age or other similar circumstances. However, with this scheme, the government will take people's premiums and return them to them again," he said.

Another Jatiya Party lawmaker Mujibul Haque compared the scheme with deposit premium schemes or DPS offered by the commercial banks in Bangladesh.

"Where is the government’s participation in this pension scheme? It’s more like the DPS schemes [by banks],” he said.

Jatiya Party lawmaker Shamim Haider Patwari said the scheme sounded more like a provident fund scheme that many organisations offer their employees.

Responding to criticism from the opposition bench, Finance Minister Kamal said the bill was heavily scrutinised by different authorities, and opinions and suggestions from different walks of life were considered before it was placed before the House.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher