Dear Mr Kodagoda and associates 

I do not propose to go over the detail of the changes that you have announced in the FNPF reforms but only to comment on the more obvious contradictions, inequities and myths you have created. 

Your FNPF Reforms 

In announcing your reforms to FNPF you have chosen the harshest way of restructuring FNPF and so it seems to deliberately make pensioners suffer.  This will bring hardship and anxiety to some 3,600 of your pensioners who will now receive a significantly reduced pension.  This does not seem to worry any of you?  In addition your consultants have contradicted themselves in  public statements.  This simply brings into question all of your credibility. 

There were, and are other ways of resolving the FNPF problems, that would not have created the hardship and difficulty you have inflicted on pensioners.  It is obvious you do not understand this, or just don’t want to understand or listen to this.  With the exception of Mr Taito,  neither you or your associates have been brave enough to argue your case openly in the public domain and have pursued a bunker mentality in your reaction to the widespread criticism against your proposed reforms. Mr Taito unfortunately fell dramatically short of what was required. He was defiant, defensive and  antagonistic in responding to genuine enquiries of concern that your reforms will bring.  Your public relations efforts in this respect have been a disaster.  One wonders if you cannot manage a public relations exercise how you can then have the nous to make the momentous decisions you have? 

The consultative process has been something of a sick joke, as evidenced by your inability to respond to, or even give the courtesy of an acknowledgement to the  many letters and emails, that have all been written expressing genuine concern at the impact of the changes.  You may have disagreed with these views but you could have at  least had the courtesy to send a simple acknowledgement. 

I have acknowledged to you,  I am a concerned and  interested party, just as I said in an earlier email that both you Mr Kodagoda,  and  you Mr Taito, would be concerned if your employer decided to reduce your remuneration package by more than 50%.  I now hope they do this and you will then know how we feel when we have subscribed to FNPF for some 30 years or more just to find that our contract has been torn up and our pension half of what it was contracted for and should be. 

I am sure you will  have already discarded me as one of those selfish few looking after their own interests,  but let me say again, I have every right to be concerned at your reforms and to protect my interests and to fight for the pension that I have saved for over the past thirty years or so for my retirement, and I make no apology for this. 

Our Contract with FNPF 

Your consultants said in their advice to you that FNPF was contracted to existing pensioners. You have ignored this advice. They further recommended that in restructuring FNPF,  funds should be set aside to provide for the existing pension liability, separate from future pension liabilities.
 

One wonders why you did not follow this advice?  One wonders why it appears your consultants changed their minds in their public pronouncements?  History has a way of revealing these matters and I sincerely trust you gentlemen are around when the truth of these matters is revealed for all to see. 

Our New Contract 

In reading the “Pension Option Registration Form” provided to me by your friendly enquiries staff in Suva,  under Section 5 Declaration it goes on to say ….”I also understand that the option I have made on this form is final and cannot be changed or revoked”……  This means it cannot be changed or revoked by anyone ……….including FNPF. I trust you realize this!

It was a similar such form that we signed when we took our existing pensions. Who is to say FNPF will not change their mind  again? 

Your friendly staff said this form was the new pension registration form and the only form that has to be signed in order to receive the new pension.  Can you please confirm this and that FNPF will not change its’ mind again and further reduce pensions. 

What happened to Your poverty line of $800 that is now the Magic $300 

What happened to your poverty line of $800 you solemnly announced  in the Fiji Times in August 2011?  You boldly stated in that advertisement  that pensioners receiving a pension of $800 a month or less would not receive a reduction, and this gave the  many pensioners at the lower pension levels some  comfort that they would continue to receive their pensions, without any deduction. 

Suddenly in the reforms, you have cruelly, without explanation,  reduced your $800 poverty line, and appear to have chosen a new mark of $300.  Do you have any idea of the turmoil, heartache and worry this change has caused those pensioner who are now suddenly faced with a huge reduction in pension, and without any justification from yourselves, when previously you had led them to believe there would be no change?  

Where did the magic $300 revised poverty line come from? Perhaps you could explain so that those suffering try to understand why they will not have sufficient pension to provide for their daily needs? 

FNPF now in the Welfare Business 

Further,  your announcement that pensioners now receiving below $100 a month will have their pensions increased to $100 per month, and those up to $300 will have their pension protected or increased by the top-up process alters the whole character of FNPF.  

To increase pensions in this manner  is welfare, nothing more and nothing less and not “top-up” as you quaintly describe it.  If you did not know it, welfare is the province of Government, not FNPF. Suddenly   FNPF is in the welfare business.  Welfare is the role of Government through its’ welfare budget, not FNPF.  The impact of this is that all future pensioners will now receive less because of the annual cost of this welfare payment. One wonders what the ongoing cost to FNPF will be for this “welfare”? 

Don’t you find it strange how FNPF did not have funds to credit to the Pension Buffer Fund, yet it can find funds for these welfare payments? 

The $10,000 top up 

The $10,000 top up is just another welfare payment. Whilst you say ………..”the top-up policy has been designed to offer some relief from the impact of the new rates”……  and so I suppose pensioners should be grateful.  However one has to ask why the top-up, how much will this all cost,  and where does the money come from to support this?  

Why $10,000, why not a top-up up of $20,000 or $30,000 or more?  Why not? 

Refund to Pensioners 

The option for current pensioners to be refunded their money is  one way FNPF obviously sees  of resolving some of the problem. 

What you have dismally failed to realize in all this, is that all existing pensioners ever wanted was to continue with their pensions.  That was what they and FNPF were contracted for. Nothing  more or nothing less. A refund is not a pension! 

The Unlucky 1209 Now Increased to an Unlucky 3,636 

You will recall in your initial announcements you confidently stated that only 1209 unlucky pensioners were to have their pensions reduced.  Whilst I cannot find exact figures I have been able to piece together the following picture and I would be happy to be corrected.  You have stated 2,500 pensioners receiving under $100 a month will have their pensions increased to $100 per month.  You have also stated 4,700 pensioners receiving from $100 to $300 per month will receive no change.  You previously announced in a bold advertisement in the Fiji Times there were 10,836 pensioners. 

This means we know have around 3,636 pensioners who are to receive a reduced pension, or have their initial pension funds refunded  as under. 

Pensioners receiving under $100 a month           2,500

Pensioners receiving $100 to $300 a month        4,700

                                                                        7,200    66%

Remaining pensioner receiving over $300

who will receive a reduced pension                   3,636    34%

Total Pensioners                                             10,836

 

The percentages I have calculated are in the same range you have announced in your advertisements.

Why the change in thinking to increase three fold the number of pensioners who will be made to suffer? 

The Tragic Conclusion 

Whilst you may all smugly claim you have saved FNPF (when as your consultants and others who know say there are other far less severe ways of doing it) all you have done is to cruelly and  tragically destroy the happiness of several generations of elderly pensioners who are now faced with hardship and anxiety in their remaining years. This is the reality of the situation you have created.  I am glad this decision is on your conscience and not mine! 

I challenge you all to come out of your bunker and see for yourselves what you have done,  and talk directly to those aging pensioners who will now suffer,  and face up to the pain and suffering you have inflicted. What are these pensioners now to do? Do they have to suffer the humiliation of asking their families ( who are probably already struggling)  for help?  Or do they start queuing for Government Welfare payments, or at the door of  the Old Peoples Home, Father Law Home or Pearce Home?  

In summary, why was all this necessary?  Or was it just a cruel vendetta to attack those on high pensions because these were seen as iniquitous, when all these pensioners ever did was to receive what they had legally contracted for?  FNPF offered a pension and they accepted. That was the contract. If as you claim there was no contract, why not let this matter be resolved once and for all in the Court and ask the Government to let the matter be heard in the High Court? 

Are you up to these challenges?  I think not, and you will remain silent in your bunker, blind to the tragic realities of your actions. 

I now leave this to you, as you are the ones who have to live with  your conscience,  and the  sad and tragic  consequences of the unjust decision that you have made in bringing these reforms,  that will bring misery and despair to many old and weary pensioners. 

Yours sincerely

RG McDonald
(Pensioner)

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