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Ireland’s Maher sees EU having “broader plans”

NETHERLANDS – Ireland’s pensions regulator Anne Maher says the European Union may have “broader plans” on pensions coordination.

“I would have some concern that the EU has plans for coordination in pensions,” Maher said. She cited the EU’s recent report on sustainable pension systems and its aim of having a single set of pension principles in place by 2006.

“They may have broader plans,” Maher, chief executive of the Pensions Board of Ireland, told the FTSE Global Investment Forum in Amsterdam.

Maher called the pension fund directive – which came into force on September 23 - “fudged and woolly”. But she said it provided “scope to play with”.

She said that Ireland, the UK and Netherlands had formed one block in the negotiations on the directive, with the rest of the EU states forming a second block.

She questioned whether multinationals still wanted cross-border pension schemes, saying there would be a “big headache” involved in cross-border administration which may hinder the development. “I can’t honestly think it’s going to happen.”

Maher also said a higher retirement age was “inevitable”. “Raising the retirement age does seem to be pretty inevitable,” she said.

Maher commented that to an extent Ireland has been able to learn lessons from other countries facing pensions crises. It was “easier for us to handle it because we saw it happen to everybody else”.

Maher added that it was best for national pension schemes such as Ireland’s National Pension Reserve Fund to invest outside their home countries. “Strictly speaking you should invest outside your own country.” The 7.4 billion-euro NPRF cannot be touched until 2025 and accounts for one percent of Ireland’s gross domestic product.

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