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Dutch government moves to middle path on new FTK after consultations

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The new Dutch financial assessment framework (FTK) is to accommodate a single pensions contract, rather than two, as had been envisaged initially.

Responding to the outcome of the consultations on her concept proposals, Jetta Klijnsma, state secretary for Social Affairs, came up with a “middle way”, consisting of elements of both earlier proposed nominal and real contracts.

She explained that limitations in these contracts had caused her to review her proposals.

“The nominal contract lacked the option of properly smoothing out financial shocks, as well as a sufficient perspective for long-term investment policy for indexation,” Klijnsma said.

She also acknowledged that the proposed contract in real terms offered only limited options for indexation.

In a letter to Parliament, the state secretary added that two different arrangements would not lead to an unequivocal framework or clarity, and would also increase the costs of pension provision.

Klijnsma suggested that, in her reviewed proposal, merging existing nominal pension rights into a real contract could be avoided.

The state secretary indicated that, while fleshing out the new variant, she would focus on the smoothing method for financial shocks and clarity the rules for rights cuts during hard times.

She also said she would look at the possibility of basing the contributions on the 10-year average of interest rates, in order to achieve stable and cost-covering contributions.

The Pensions Federation responded positively to Klijnsma’s reviewed proposals.

However, it argued that pension funds should be allowed to continue linking their contribution level to “prudent” returns.

The large healthcare scheme PFZW, which had championed the real contract, said it regretted Klijnsma’s change of mind, but that it appreciated the new option of evening out rights cuts.

However, it said it doubted whether the indexation target would still be achievable in the new scenario, or that the new contract would still allow pension funds to carry out a population-specific investment policy.

In the opinion of Theo Kocken, risk-management professor at the Free University (VU), the best element of the new contract variant is that pension funds no longer have to implement significant rights cuts at the end of a recovery process.

However, he also stressed that solutions still needed to be found for sufficient age differentiation, to address the different capacity of younger and older workers to absorb financial risks.

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