Mr Aisake Taito
Chief Executive Officer
Fiji National Provident Fund
Private Mail Bag, Suva
Provident Plaza Two
33 Ellery Street, Suva
Dear Mr Aisake Taito,
As you are well aware there has been a lot of upset, anger, disappointment and outrage about the restructuring of the FNPF and the planned reduction of pensions. I attended the two day symposium at the Holiday Inn some months ago and am well aware of all the discussion and proposals that were put forward. The case for the unsustainability of the Fund was highlighted as well as the proposed reduction in existing pensions to as low as 9%. At that meeting but particularly at a subsequent meeting at the Civic Centre a number of pensioners expressed their anger and outrage at the proposed reductions. Many were of the opinion that such drastic deductions would be in violation of contracts they signed which were legally binding. I understand that about 1200 pensioners are saying that the FNPF’s plans to drastically cut their pensions are unjustified.
If I understand the situation correctly it was first announced that all current pension rates were not sustainable. Later FNPF announced that about 90% of the 11,000 pensions would not face reduction because they were below the $800 a month poverty line. This was much appreciated.
However the remaining 1200 are the ones who are extremely upset and feel that there has been some misunderstanding, miscalculations and consequent injustices. The planned reductions seem to have been targeted at those who receive quite large monthly payments. Yet this section of pensioners is very small – probably totalling less than 50. The rest – the large majority of the 1200 – are middle and working class.
It is this group which feels that great injustice is being done to them especially in view of the fact that the 20% devaluation of the Fiji dollar has meant that the purchasing power of their pension dollar has declined considerably. Moreover rising costs of food, fuel, electricity and water charges plus reflected in the recent high rates of inflation generally has meant greater hardship for many. Moreover this growing hardship has caused deep concern and anxiety – especially for those who have home loans to pay and family commitments to fulfil. This anxiety easily translated into physical symptoms of blood pressure and heart problems.
Information provided by FNPF indicates that the Fund can continue until 2050 or 2055 as it is presently structured before it would face collapse. So why cut pensions 40 or 45 years in advance especially when the pensioners concerned see themselves as a “diminishing liability” due to the fact that their numbers are being reduced as elderly members pass on.
I am sure you have received numerous letters from the pensioners concerned but they have not received any positive assurances from you that their concerns have been taken into serious consideration.
Another matter of concern which I and others raised at the symposium is that people cannot accept that the bad investments of the past can just be written off as “water under the bridge”. We are talking about the people’s money – the savings of thousands of ordinary people. People want to see that those responsible for bad investments are brought to justice and the money misused is returned to the FNPF.
Connected with the above is that the promise made to members that future investments would be carefully scrutinised is not being kept. Recent announcements that huge loans were made to Air Pacific for the purchase of new aircraft, that interest-free loans were being made to Natadola, and that a further loan was being made to a business venture specialising in the manufacturing of pasta and yogurt, all seem to be out of keeping with responsible investments and accountability to members. Surely commercial banks exist for such loans.
Many concerned pensioners feel that great injustice is being done to them. They are disappointed, angry, outraged and deeply upset at the way the situation has been handled. Moreover they feel that their voices have not been heard.
I personally am not affected by the current decisions of the FNPF but I have heard the cries of the people and I feel obliged to add my voice to theirs and request that justice be done.
I beg that you listen to the voices that have been raised in concern and reconsider the current policies being proposed. Large and sudden cuts to the pensions of ordinary people are not the answer in hard economic times.
(Fr Kevin J. Barr)
Ajith Kodagoda – firstname.lastname@example.org
Aisake Taito – AisakeT@fnpf.com.fj
Tom Ricketts – email@example.com
Taito Waqa – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tevita Kuruvakadua – email@example.com
Sashi Singh – firstname.lastname@example.org