This is a copy of Ross McDonald’s excellent email to Kogagoda of FNPF, it is well worth taking the time to read it all.
Dear Mr Kodagoda & Associates
Further to my earlier emails concerning FNPF pension reforms I refer you to the newspaper advertisement placed in the Fiji Times on 16 July 2011. This has inaccuracies and simply causes further confusion that leads to further questions being asked on just what FNPF is deciding with these reforms and is the very cause of undermining, misinterpreting and spreading of false information that you are so vigorously objecting to. These are just some points that need mentioning. There are many others that I will raise in later emails.
The good, the bad, the ugly and the sad
It is gratifying to read that 9,627 pensioners are not going to have their pension reduced. This is the good news. The bad news is there are 1,209 pensioners who are going to have their pensions reduced. And the ugly news is you won’t tell us 1209 pensioners what you intend to do, and the sad news is, you seemingly just don’t care.
I note in the second paragraph the advertisement states “there are few individuals with self-interest etc etc”. Let me state quite categorically I am one of those persons who has a self-interest. I also suggest there are another 1,208 pensioners out there with that same self-interest. Let me put it to you this way. So far the various pronouncements made by FNPF indicate my pension is going to be reduced to 9% (or 36% of what it currently is). (According to your advertisement it may be to 8.7% which causes further confusion). With this anticipated reduction of 64% in my pension, that it seems will be effective in September 2011, don’t you think I have a right to be worried and to protect my own self-interest. Let’s put it another way. If when you go to work tomorrow your employer says your salary package is being reduced by 64%, what would you do? Would you just meekly say “thanks boss that is fine” and walk away. Of course not, you have a contact to rely on and would do all you could to enforce your contract and to protect your own self-interest. Just to check I am right, try this tomorrow morning advising Mr Taito, CEO of the FNPF and all management and staff of FNPF that their salary packages are being reduced by 64%, and see what reaction you get. I’ll bet they don’t just say “ thanks Boss, that is fine” and meekly walk away. You would have a huge argument on your hands, probably a walk out, the union would get involved and quite rightly so, as Mr Taito and all management and staff have a contract of employment and would demand FNPF stick by it, in order to protect their own self-interests, and so they should, just as you would demand your employer stick by the terms of his contract with you. Is this any different to what you are doing to pensioners and their pensions? Do I make my point? We are merely trying to protect our own “self-interest”. Nothing more, nothing less. And when I say “we”, we are the other 1,209 pensioners who according to your advertisement are going to have their pensions reduced, by how much, who knows? And it seems if you know you won’t tell us! And this is despite the fact we have a binding contract with FNPF to pay our pensions that you and your associates seem quite impervious to, and with apparently no knowledge or understanding of the immense consequences and damage you are doing to our society and economy and our confidence in the law, as many of our daily needs are governed by contracts and FNPF. More particularly it is apparent you have no concern or care for 1209 pensioners who are going to be directly affected by your action. Across society and throughout commerce people can now ask , we have a contract, you said you were going to do it, but will you? It didn’t worry FNPF when they dumped 1209 pensioner’s contracts, so we don’t need to honour contracts any more. If it was good enough for FNPF not to honour pensioners contracts, it is good enough for us too! Imagine the chaos in commerce and society this could bring.
Undermine, misinterpret and false rumours
Pensioners are not undermining, misinterpreting and causing false rumours as your advertisement claims. It is the lack of accurate, precise and factual information emanating from FNPF that is causing this problem. Pensioners have had to continually ask questions to find out and clarify precisely what the FNPF is recommending in its reform. Thus the many questions that largely remain unanswered. Other pensioners and I have questioned FNPF on the various statements that FNPF has made. This has been necessary because many announcement made by FNPF have not stood up to scrutiny. They have simply created uncertainty, and then more uncertainty by their lack of consistency. As an example, in the public meetings your speakers said “pensions” will be reduced because FNPF cannot afford to continue to pay pensions at these current levels. Then miracle of miracles we now find that 89% will not be reduced, and it seems FNPF can now afford to pay these 9,627 pensions when previously FNPF said it could not afford to continue paying pensions at current levels. Do you wonder why there is confusion? You have brought it upon yourselves? We wonder do you really know what you are saying and doing when we see such wide contradictions in the information you are providing? Had FNPF been transparent in its deliberations, and given pensioners accurate and correct information, and allowed them to contribute in a meaningful way to the reforms, then you and your associates could perhaps have avoided the predicament you now find yourselves in. You cannot even acknowledge publicly that pensioners have legal and binding contracts with FNPF to pay their pensions, or that there is a Government guarantee in place to support FNPF that you and your associates seem incapable of calling up. Your statement in the Fiji Times of 23 July is further evidence of this inconsistency and just causes further problems one of which I discuss below.
The 9627 Lucky Pensioners
It is gratifying that FNPF has finally confirmed 9,627 pensioners who receive a pension below $800 will not have their pension cut. What may I ask is to happen to the other 1,209 pensioners on that list. Are they all to have their pensions cut to 36% of their existing pension? Or is it 8.7% of their original balance? You see what you are suggesting is quite unclear! Does this mean that a pensioner on $2,000 a month will get a cut of 64% and his new pension will be $680, or $120 below the poverty line. If so how do you explain that you and your associates are comfortable with this when you have deliberately reduced these pensions to below the poverty line. How do you expect these pensioners to survive? Is this the best FNPF can do? Does this mean that a pensioner on a pension of say $801 a month will get a cut of 64% and his new pension will be $272 a month, or $528 below the poverty line? Whatever cut he gets, he will be below the poverty line. Surely you are joking as the pensioner who was getting $800 has no change, and the one getting $801 is to be reduced to $272? You cannot be serious? Have you done your arithmetic? Don’t you see the inequity of all this? How do you explain that FNPF is comfortable that 9,627 pensioners, are to be paid 100% of their pensions and yet the remaining 1209 pensioners who receive pensions of above $801 are all to have their pensions cut by it seems 64%. Surely someone is being subsidized? How do you balance this out, as all of your pronouncements indicate subsidies are the very basis of your concerns? These questions are simply to clarify the issues you and your associates have raised in acting as prosecutor, judge and jury on pension reforms and are not to undermine, misinterpret and create false rumours. There are many other questions that will be asked in later emails. It seems you are deliberately targeting those 1209 pensioners who receive a pension of $801 or more. Some would call this blatant discrimination! You and your associates are in a mine-field of your own making!
In the question and answer panel at the foot of the advertisement you ask at question number 5, “Has the Fund considered that the review of the current pension is not legal and fair as both confidence and contract issues are compromised?”. You then proceed to answer an entirely different question that has nothing to do with confidence, contracts, or the Law of Contracts. Would you please now at least do the right thing and stop treating the reading public and your pensioners as simpletons and give a direct answer to the question you posed? As I said in my letter of 9 June 2011 to Mr Taito, to which I have never received a reply, pensioners have an irrevocable contract with FNPF to pay their pension. This is a contract that cannot be voided or changed. Remember these 1209 pensioners are the very same people who simply followed the law for some forty years or so, who did what was required of them as good citizens and paid their contributions to FNPF, and trusted implicitly in the law that they would be protected and be provided for as the law demanded. Sadly this law is being high jacked by you and your associates in your shameful attempt to make it redundant.
Doing what is right
In the penultimate paragraph in the right hand column FNPF goes on to say……“the Fund must do the right thing for its members in the long term and hence, achieve its overall objectives of ensuring members financial security upon retirement.” How gratifying it would have been if you had said ….the Fund must do the right thing for its members and pensioners etc etc…… At least we would then have known you and your associates have some care and concern for your pensioners.
I understand the current logo of FNPF is …………… “Securing your future.” Can I suggest you immediately change this to a more appropriate..…”Destroying our 1209 pensioner’s future”, or if this is too long just “Destroying your future” sounds good, as you and your associates are doing a good job of it!