President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has assured workers that the government will pay GH¢900 million arrears it owes the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
The remaining amount of GH¢800 million would be settled next year, he added.
“As I told you last year, over GH¢3 billion of pension funds, funds that had been outstanding for six years and about which TUC has been largely complaining, were transferred in 2017 from the Temporary Pensions Fund Account (TPFA) at the Bank of Ghana to the appropriate occupational pensions scheme,” the President said.
“I’m informed that the Ministry of Finance has arranged for payment of GH¢200 million and a bond of GH¢700 million towards the retirement of the arrears owed to SSNIT. This will leave arrears of GH¢800 million which will be included in next year’s budget,” he added.
Acknowledging that there were unresolved issues with SSNIT and the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA), President Akufo-Addo said he had tasked the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to liaise with the two bodies to bring finality to all outstanding issues in the next three months.
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The President gave the assurance when he addressed this year’s National May Day at the Black Star Square in Accra.
It was on the theme: “Sustainable Pensions for All; The Role of Social Partners”.
Earlier, some of the workers marched from the Obra Spot around the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange in Accra through some principal streets to the Black Star Square for the celebrations.
At the parade grounds, the workers carried placards, some of which read: “TOR Workers are stranded” and “Dr Baah Stop Undermining ICU”.
Others carried messages such as: “Save Atiwa Forest Now, Save Water”, “Casual Workers also Deserve Pension, Pay Our SSNIT” and “Dr Baah Worst TUC Leader Ever”.
An early morning storm, followed by rains nearly disrupted the ceremony. While some of the workers defied the rains and stood in, others sought refuge in the stands at the Black Star Square. Just as the rains were subsiding, the President also arrived for the programme to continue.
President Akufo-Addo said in much the same way that there should be trust between workers and the new private pension companies, it was equally important that there was trust between workers and the state-established SSNIT.
“Too many people either have no pensions at all or have inadequate pensions to match the needs of old age. In the informal sectors of the economy, especially, most people work without any thought of pension coverage, and when they no longer have the strength to work, their lives become miserable,” the President said.
He said society had changed with older people unable to count on their children to look after them in their old age like it used to be, and expressed the hope that Ghanaians would not lose the values of accepting responsibility for and looking after their aged relatives.
President Akufo-Addo stated that since about 90 per cent of workers operated in the informal sector, there was the need to focus on extending access to that sector in compliance with the National Pension Law.
He announced that currently the government was on course to establish a Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme and that the trend would be extended to other worker groups in the informal economy.
He encouraged social partners, employers and enterprise owners to comply with existing pension regulations and support their staff to contribute to pension schemes.
Touching on what he termed “lopsided nature of things in our country”, the President said that had been demonstrated by the statistics which estimated that out of the about 13 million workers, only 1.2 million were in formal work.
“The government of Ghana employs about 600,000 of this number, and more than 80 per cent of all government revenue is spent on the remuneration and conditions of service of those of us in this group,” he added.
He explained that very few of the 600,000 on the government payroll were satisfied with their circumstances, adding that: “I am sure we have all heard some of the main sources of unhappiness among the litany of complaints read out by the representative of organised labour.”
President Akufo-Addo explained that the government was devising ways of widening the pension base to reduce unemployment through the economic transformation agenda such as the various job creation initiatives, including ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, ‘One-District, One-Factory’, ‘Industrial Stimulus Package’, ‘Planting for Export and Rural Development’ and private sector support schemes.
He said all those were bearing fruits and would soon start reducing unemployment and provide opportunities for citizens to work and earn higher incomes to enable them to contribute to their pensions.
In fulfilment of his pledge to equip the young people for the world of work through the development of TVET,
President Akufo-Addo announced that the government had secured funding for 21 state-of-the-art TVET centres.
He added that parliamentary approval had been given for all 34 NVTI centres to be upgraded, retooled, curricula improved and teachers trained. The building of two new foundries and two machine-making factories and the completion of the NVTI headquarters are also on course.
He added that parliamentary approval had been sought for all 10 technical universities and technical institutes to be re-equipped, retooled and rehabilitated, adding that “we know the areas of sustainable job creation, and we know that we need well-trained technicians to build our country”.