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CEE roundup: Poland, Czech Republic

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  • Warsaw, Poland

A surge in late postal deliveries has pushed the number of workers who want to remain in Poland’s second-pillar funds (OFEs) to just over 2.56m as of 18 August, according to the Polish Social Security Institution (ZUS).

Of these, some 52,000 declarations need to be verified because of irregularities or mistakes made in filling the submissions.

The near-final number took both the Polish authorities and pensions industry by surprise.

As of 31 July, the deadline for submitting declarations, ZUS had registered around 1.7m-1.8m.

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Postal declarations that arrived after the deadline were acceptable if there was proof they were posted no later than 31 July.

ZUS president Zbigniew Derdziuk subsequently predicted as many as 2m sign-ups.

The share, at 18.3% of 14m-odd eligible workers, is impressive given that the four-month decision period extended into the summer holidays, and that the new pensions reform law banned pension fund companies from advertising over that period.

That piece of legislation, which also applies to future transfer windows, remains contentious and could backfire on the government, experts say.

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal is examining the new law following a request by president Bronisław Komorowski.

According to the Attorney General’s Office opinion presented to the Tribunal, the advertising ban has breached the Constitution.

In contrast, in the Czech Republic, lack of interest in the relatively new voluntary second pillar has contributed to the scheme’s early demise.

Since the second pillar’s implementation at the start of 2013, only 83,000 have signed up, compared with 4.9m in the third pillar.

The Social Democrats (CSSD), the leading party in the coalition government sworn in this January, fulfilled its earlier promise to cancel the system.

The pillar has been funded by diverting 3% of the 28% first-pillar social contribution, with members adding a further 2% from their gross wages.

A cross-party commission set up by the government to determine how the system should be dismantled has recommended that second-pillar members be able to choose whether to receive their funds either into their existing third-pillar funds or private bank accounts.

Those who choose the latter route have the option to direct the 3% portion back into their first-pillar accounts, thereby boosting their eventual state pension payout.

The outstanding issue is whether the changeover takes place in January 2016 or a year later.

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