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We want to do more beyond retirement packages – NSSF

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By Ismail Musa Ladu

National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has said there is so much it can do with the proposed NSSF (Amendments) Bill, 2019 to expand the Fund in terms of member contributions and income. 
After delivering a 12.15 per cent interest on members’ savings, which was a growth from 10.75 for the period ended June 2020, the Fund yesterday said the proposed amendments will, beyond allowing midterm access, empower NSSF to introduce new benefits and flexibilities to tap into the large informal market.  

“We are now waiting for Parliament to effect the changes proposed by the President. There is so much we can do just beyond providing midterm access,” Mr  Richard Byarugaba, the NSSF managing director, said yesterday during the ninth annual members meeting in which Finance Minister Matia Kasaija declared a 12.15 per cent interest on members’ savings. 
 
During the meeting, Mr Kasaija said he will ensure that the amendments are expedited to allow NSSF widen social security coverage by providing new products beyond retirement benefits, which is currently the core product. 
Some of the projected products, Mr Byrarugaba said, will include benefits that cover life cycle risks, promote passive saving and venture into informal sector, including introducing a retirement pot for farmers. 

“The future is about making your savings count for a better life in investments, insurance, affordable homes, great benefits, while still securing a better life,” he said, giving an indication of where the Fund will be paying attention once the amendments are passed and assented to.  
During the period ended Junes 30, NSSF experienced a reduction in member contributions, declining from 17 per cent in the same period in the last financial year to 8 per cent. 
However, Mr Byarugaba noted that the Fund had remained resilient, supported by growth in income from its investment portfolio. 

“Between the 2016/17 and 2020/21 financial year, we see a 9 per cent reduction in the growth rate of member’s contributions,” he said, stressing that unlike before the Fund’s growth was now driven by investments rather than members contributions.  
During the period ended June 2021, total asset under NSSF’s management grew to Shs15.6 trillion from Shs13.3 trillion for the period ended June 2020 with the bulk of the income generated from equity markets.   For instance, during the period, income from the Nairobi Securities Exchange grew by 26 per cent while that from the Tanzania Stock Market increased by 4.8 per cent. 
Mr Byarugaba also indicated that the Fund’s continued growth was on course to deliver on its strategic target of hit Shs20 trillion by 2025. 

However, he noted, there was need for members to lobby for tax waivers on investment income even as Mr Kasaija indicated that: “I need taxes to be able to deliver on social services for members.”
About 78 per cent of members’ savings is held in fixed income, Government Papers, which predictably, during the year, delivered high returns, helping the Fund to sail through Covid-19 related disruptions. 

Analyst weighs in         
According to Mr Stephen Kaboyo, an equity markets expert and the managing partner at Alpha Capital, despite a slowdown in performance of investment markets, NSSF has been able to ride the tide, noting that it is understandable for NSSF to offer a 12.5 per cent interest on member’s savings. 
“What seems to have worked is their investment in low risk assets which are government securities. By and large, over the past year, yields on these assets have been relatively stable and attractive to guarantee a stable income for the fund,” he said.
Their investments, he said, have been guided by a simple and traditional approach which is to seek the highest possible return at an acceptable level of volatility or to minimize volatility at any given level of expected return. 

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