NETHERLANDS - On the eve of the Dutch Senate discussions about the new Pensions Bill there is widespread scepticism within the national pensions industry on the timetable being pursued by social affairs minister Aart Jan de Geus.

The Senate is set to debate the issue during what will probably be a marathon session tomorrow.

Even his own party the Christian Democrats, whose support is probably pivotal for the passing of the bill, has serious doubts about implementation on January 1.

The new Pensions Bill aims to scrap the tax breaks on early retirement VUT and pre-pensions premiums. Employees are supposed to change their pre-pensions scheme to an old-age pension, or switch to the new ‘levensloop’ under which they can set aside a part of their salary tax- free for taking paid leave later, or at the end of their working life.

Pension funds and insurers have already been urging the Dutch cabinet for a while to postpone the implementation date of the new legislation.

They argue there won’t be enough time for adjusting the approximately 75,000 different schemes. They fear claims of billions of euros from the tax office if the implementation isn’t postponed until 2007 at its earliest. So far De Geus and social affairs secretary Wijn have been immune to their pleas.

Consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers considers some adjustment of the pensions schemes within a year impossible.

Some insurers have thousands of schemes within their portfolios. Also, the unions have stressed the complexity of the issue and has warned about the negative effects on buying power and the cost of wages.

CDA senator Ria Vedder – in daily life a life insurance expert at Deloitte & Touche – had stated from experience that “adjusting pension schemes requires more than a year”.