The Universal Pension Management Bill, 2023 was passed in the House aimed at bringing the country’s growing elderly population under a universal pension scheme.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal moved the bill and it was passed by voice vote.
As per the Bill,aAll Bangladeshi nationals aged from 18 to 50 years can participate in this pension scheme. The expatriate Bangladeshis are also eligible to the benefits.
The Finance Division has prepared the draft of the bill seeking to bring the growing elderly population under a sustainable social safety net.
This will particularly benefit the elderly population when they become jobless or become afflicted with diseases, paralysis, old age or other similar conditions, or extreme poverty amid high life expectancy rate.
As per the draft law, a person will have to provide premium for at least 10 years uninterruptedly to get pension from the age of 60 until the death.
If an elderly person dies before the age 75 years, the nominee will get the pension for the remaining time.
However, the amount of premium will be determined by a rule under the proposed law.
According to the proposed law, there will be a five-member national pension authority headed by a chairman and also a 15-member governing body with the finance minister as its chair.
The government will appoint the chairman and the other four members national pension authority.
Finance Minister will be the chairman of the governing body where the other members will be the Bangladesh Bank governor, finance secretary, financial institutions division secretary, NBR chairman, social welfare secretary, secretary of woman and child affairs ministry, expatriate welfare and overseas employment secretary, labour and employment secretary, post and telecommunication division secretary, PMO secretary, BSEC chairman, FBCCI president, Bangladesh Employers Federation president, BWCCI president and the executive chairman.
The governing body will hold at least three meetings each year.
The main office of the authority will be in Dhaka and its branches can be established in any place of the country taking prior permission.
The inclusion in this pension scheme will be voluntarily unless the government issues any gazette for making it compulsory.
The deposited fee will he treated as investment and will be applicable for tax waiver while the pension will be tax free.
The Bill said that a portion of the free can be given by the government for the people who are below the lowest income level or who are insolvent.
There will be a universal pension fund to manage the deposited money properly. One or more scheduled banks will act as the banker of the Fund.
Fund will be transferred through electronic fund transfer system to ensure the transfer in specific time and for that a centralised and automatic pension distribution structure will be formed.
For inclusion of the government, semi-government and autonomous bodies in this pension scheme the government will issue gazette notification.
Taking part in the discussion, Gonoforum MP Mokabbir Khan termed the bill as very important one and an excellent initiative of the government.
But, he said that this pension system will not get the response of common people. Because many things are not compatible with the way government employees get their pension.
“It is not clear how people will get the returns. It is more like a banking package. Public opinion should be taken before this bill is passed,” he said.
Jatiya Party MP Fakhrul Imam said this bill is contradictory to the constitution.
The Constitution states, he said, 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, parentlessness or old age or other similar circumstances.
“The government will take fees from people and return it again. There is no chance of passing this bill,” he said.
Another Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque said the words of the bill are good. “But what is the government’s participation in this pension scheme?” he questioned.
He mentioned that there is no government involvement in the pension.
“It is like DPS scheme of banks. There is rumor that the government is in shortage of money that forced it to take money from the people?”
Criticising the Finance Minister for taking the stance of keeping mum, Mujibul Haque said that the Finance Minister does not talk much.
“Dumb has fewer enemies. But it is not known whether the words reached the ears of the finance minister. No feedback or initiative is seen from him,” he said.
Jatiya Party MP Shamim Haider Patwari said that apparently the law is good. But it does not seem to be anything out of the way provided by various private institutions.
“It is not clear what profit the government will give.”
Jatiya Pati MP Kazi Firoz Rashid said that it is like keeping chickens near a fox.
“People will keep money in banks and the banks will siphon off the money abroad. Banks have lost people’s trust. One bank’s director is taking money from another bank.”
He said that the defaulters are getting all the benefits.
He highlighted the information of the report published in a newspaper about money laundering abroad and said that there is no one to see the matter.
“Those who are laundering money are being encouraged.”
Responding to criticism from members of the opposition, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said that many discussions were held before bringing this bill.
“Those who submitted written comments have been taken into consideration. The bill was also discussed in detail in the parliamentary committee. The Bill has been brought to the Parliament with a view to its acceptance.”