Time for Govt to front up with cash
Monday, April 9th 2001, 12:15AM
The Government has an opportunity in this year's budget to show how strongly committed it is to helping New Zealanders to save for their own retirement.
On a points basis this Government is miles ahead of recent administrations in terms of addressing issues around superannuation and savings. Finance minister Michael Cullen is known to regularly talk to the industry about issues, and he knows where there are problems that need addressing.
While progress is slow, things are happening.
There's lots of talk around the big issues, such as prefunding the state pension, NZ Super, and providing incentives through a taxed-exempt-taxed tax regime.
But it takes more than just a couple of big changes to make improvements. To make sure changes are successful many of the little jobs need to be addressed.
Two of these which Good Returns has reported on in the past fortnight are the future funding for the Office of the Retirement Commissioner and GST on management fees.
It's about time the ORC had a good deal from government. It took years between when the idea of the ORC was first suggested by the Todd Taskforce until it was set up. When it was set up the government of the day were too stingy to fully fund the office.
The stories of then Finance Minister Bill Birch hauling all the chief executives of the major fund managers and life office into his office then giving them an ultimatum to provide funding are legendary within the industry.
Little has changed. Over the years the number of private sector sponsors have dwindled from 10, down to four last year and zip now. When the office recently asked the Government for a mere $750,000 in additional funding it was turned down.
The ORC has shown that it can be effective, but it needs some more grunt and resources to do the job it should do.
- The office should be fully funded by the Government
- The budget should be sufficient to enable it to do an effective job
- The Retirement Commissioner should be made an Officer of Parliament
- The Office should have an official status where it provides independent policy advice to ministers
- Opposition parties should be able to get the ORC to provide independent and objective assessment of policy proposals.
One of the worries about the Big Cullen Fund is that many New Zealanders will think it is the panacea to their retirement income problems. It is not.
The BCF is all about the Government saving for itself, not the Government saving for individuals.
"Its not about the Government saving for people, it's about the Government saving for itself," Labour MP, and chairman of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee Mark Peck says.
The universal pension the Government will provide is modest and people, if they want a half-decent lifestyle, will need to supplement it with their own savings. Who is going to tell the public that they still need to provide for their own retirement? The Office of the Retirement Commissioner.
The Office of the Retirement Commissioner has shown it can be successful at getting information across to the public with limited resources. Now it's done it's apprenticeship it should be given the necessary resources to be even more effective.
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