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Gov't mutes savings message

Budget Coverage: Office of the Retirement Commissioner takes a hit where it hurts - the pocket.

Friday, May 25th 2001, 10:34AM

by Philip Macalister

What the Retirement Commissioner officially does

•Encouragement of voluntary savings for retirement.

•Monitoring effects of retirement income policies.

•Advice on tasks and information required for periodic reports.

•Advice on retirement income issues.

•Monitoring of effectiveness of the Savings and Insurance Ombudsmen.

•Information collection and publication

•Delivery of a public education campaign focusing on improving financial literacy and signalling the importance of personal savings.

Source: Budget 2001

Promoting the savings message will become more muted this year after the Government cut its funding to the Office of the Retirement Commissioner in its Budget yesterday.

In the budget it cut the office's funding 30% from $4.78 million to $3.32 million.

On top of this the private sector has stopped its funding which orginally ran at $1 million a year.

Currently the savings industry and the Government are in disagreement over the office's funding. The industry want the Government to fully fund the office, while Finance Minister Michael Cullen says the funding should be a partnership between the Government and industry.

Investment Savings and Insurance Association chief executive Vance Arkinstall says returning to the joint approach originally used "just isn't a goer."

However, he says the industry is prepared to work with the office and help find ways of "furthering its needs."

Retirement Commissioner Colin Blair says the significant funding cut is a blow.

"Obviously it would be great to have more resources."

He says the office has, over the past five years, significantly raised awareness amongst the public that they need to have private savings if they want to preserve their standard of living in retirement.

Blair says the office now plans to concentrate its efforts on providing good quality financial educational and information programmes in schools, the workplace, through community groups and through the internet.

"We are also looking for cost efficient ways of making print material available to the general public.

"With our limited funding, the real challenge is going to be effectively promoting our programmes. In the past we have relied on some very innovative television promotion to attract attention and encourage action.

"We must continue with some TV exposure but we are also looking at other ways of informing the public on how they can obtain access to our impartial information," he says.

POLL: Who should fund the Retirement Commissioner?VOTE HERE

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