Call for rescue fund in the Netherlands
NETHERLANDS - A Dutch lobbying organisation for the elderly has called for a rescue fund to be set up which will allow struggling pension funds to keep their benefits at their present level.
Stella Salden, director of the Unie KBO, claimed both the government and employers should be the initial contributors to the support fund as, in her opinion, a guarantee for at least the nominal pensions at present is considered very reasonable, given the current government's guarantee for savings, "which savers have voluntarily deposited at self-chosen banks".
Salden has also called for a more stringent code of conduct for pension funds, to prevent them from taking too large an investment risk and limit the bonuses they pay.
"The introduction of the so-called Balkenende-norm - a salary not exceeding the prime minister's salary of approximately €166,000 - will be the right signal to pension funds' participants," argued the director.
In Salden's opinion, the reintroduction of a fixed accounting rate for liabilities based on a long-term average, instead of the volatile market rate, should also be considered, along with measures from the government and the industry to spread risks over all existing pension funds.
That said, Huub Tilburgs, social economic adviser at the Unie KBO, explained the organisation has yet to work out its suggestions in detail.
"Much depends on the outcome of the present negotiations about emergency measures, such as on the official retirement age, within the government. The same goes for the decisions by regulator De Nederlandsche Bank might take, after pensions funds have submitted their recovery plans," he pointed out.
Gerard Verheij, secretary for pensions policy at the employers' representative body VNO-NCW said it does not see the need for an emergency fund for suffering pension schemes.
"We cannot provide guarantees for pensions, nor for jobs. However, by trying to limit salary rises, we could help keeping inflation under control. This will ease the pensioners' burden," according to Verheij.
In the opinion of economist Lans Bovenberg, a rescue fund for ailing pension schemes is a bad idea at the moment.
"Because the economic situation is really dire, we can't spare the pensioners," he commented to IPE.
"As additional pensions are for the average and high income groups, the government should focus its financial resources on low income groups and on the state pension AOW," Bovenberg stressed.
"If companies must contribute to the rescue scheme, they will fire more workers," he added.
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