KAMPALA – My friend, senior citizen Joachim Buwembo recently wrote, “NSSF money is like a guard dog – it is for a specific purpose; it does not provide milk when you need some. NSSF money is for post-employment not a health insurance policy.”
His satire is unmatched.
There is a view spreading rapidly like a wildfire that NSSF contributors should be paid 20% of their savings to mitigate the effects of Covid19.
My view is that this is a sinister plan to drive attention away from attention away from Government whose responsibility it is to help people in a situation like this. A well-meaning Ugandan should be pushing for a bailout for all workers. And this bailout should not be the workers own money.
Millions of Ugandans have lost their income because of the pandemic. NSSF has only 1.3m contributors. Out of these, not even half have a substantial amount of money that 20% will make a big difference. Who is speaking for the rest of the people? Is it not possible to force Government to pay a certain amount of money to every citizen who has lost a job?
MPs recently awarded themselves 20m and were even added 40m. Why cant middle class citizens who are demanding their 20% use this energy and resources to force the Government to intervene and make cash payments to those who have no income. This could start with two or three months’ pay.
Geraldine Ssali, a former Deputy MD at NSSF said its raining now. But scientists are saying there is a possibility that Covid19 can re-emerge, is NSSF going to be paying 20% to savers each time it rains?
My argument is that Government is the safety net of its citizens during catastrophe and this should be the test of our Government’s commitment to help people. There have been efforts to distribute posho and beans, which should be appreciated by those who need them to survive, but there is another category of people with other needs, loans to pay and mortgages to service. Is it reasonable or fair for workers to use their savings to pay for loans or mortgages?
My thinking is that NSSF should stay away Covid19 debate, the proposed amendment of the law for savers to access part of their benefits at the age of 45 is fair enough but the demand for 20% pay-out because of Covid19 undermines the purpose of the Fund.
According to the current law, NSSF benefits are intended to provide a safety net for members when they retire, permanent incapacitation or for dependents in the event of death. Of course this can be amended but I think amending it because of Covid19 would create a bad precedent. Would that mean that each time there is a pandemic, savers will be paid a certain portion of their savings?
You can’t eat your pension every time it rains because it keeps raining. For me Covid19 has revealed many things especially in Uganda and other ‘developing countries,’ one of them is that economic deprivation can cause health problems in the long run because some people have died from other health complications caused by the lockdown yet no one had died from Covid19.
I am not oblivious to the needs of people who have lost jobs, but its one thing to be passionate, its another to be rational. Let’s push the pressure where it belongs and if people are persistent, the Government will listen and find a way of sorting out this crisis.
NSSF should remain a pension fund. Government should help its taxpayers.
When all this done, we should evaluate the kind of leaders we elect. The decisions they make for the people during such situations. The long-term solution to all this a government that will provide critical social services for the population with or without Covid19.
I think time to have more ordinary people who understand the needs of the population beyond posho and beans. ‘Strong men’ eventually lose touch with reality and fail to find solutions to people’s problems.
If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail. To a man looking for votes, you can complete this….
To the MPs, one man’s pain, is another man’s profit, the only way to ensure profit is to be the one bringing pain. MPs, you have made sure there is enough supply of pain on ordinary Ugandans.
The author, Mr Fortunate Ahimbisibwe is a seasoned Kampala journalist currently on a sabbatical to the UK.