By Mariah Nanah
President Yoweri Museveni has agreed that workers should have mid-term access to their saving in the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) after directing the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Betty Amongi to make changes to the bill and return it for consent.
While speaking at State House, the President noted that if it does not work out, it will be a lesson learned together.
“You remember Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice? Shylock with his ‘my pound of flesh whether you die or what’! For the NRM not to be that Shylock and since these people (workers) think this is the solution, let’s go ahead.” Museveni said.
Shylock is a fictional character in William Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, a Venetian Jewish moneylender where a younger Museveni acted while student at Ntare School.
It was agreed that somebody who is 45 years and has saved for ten years can access up to 20% of their savings. The commencement date will be set in the statutory instrument, supervision of the fund by the Ministry of Finance, while the NSSF MD is a member of the Board of directors.
Conflicting information and change in wording regarding the National Social Security (Amendment) bill forced the President to push a major decision on the workers mid-term access to today.
The meeting was attended by workers’ representatives, representatives from the Ministry of Finance led by the Minister Matia Kasaijja, the MD of NSSF Richard Byarugaba as well as members of NOTU and COFTU.
The President said he was more concerned about destroying the viability of the fund.
“The fear was if you do that, you degrade huge money put together and which the fund is using to invest instead of going abroad to beg. Also a worker may end up getting less by 30 million at his retirement,” he said.
According to the NSSF MD Richard Byarugaba, the fund collects Shs 125bn a month, Shs 1.5trillion per year and pay up to Shs 900bn for members qualifying in other benefits.
However, Minister Amongi Betty said they had delved into all the issues and their conclusion is that, it would not have a substantial impact on the depletion of the fund because the fund is Shs 15 trillion and they need between Shs 800bn to 1 trillion to handle mid-term access at a go.
“We agreed to schedule it. We don’t pay all at a go but about 20% of members in a certain period and have also have a criteria like age and amount saved,” she said.
The Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija said they had already done brief to the President on how they are going to handle this including formation of regulations that will govern the way the money will get out.
NOTU Chairman General Usher Owere commended President Museveni for the bold decision and thanked him on behalf workers of Uganda for listening to their plight.
“Workers are very happy with you. You have saved this country and workers will never forget you. I thank the workers for being patient,” he said.
Every month, institutions deduct 5% of employees’ salaries as contribution to NSSF, the employers tops it up with 10 percent while NSSF earns them 12%.
NSSF is a government agency responsible for the collection, safekeeping, responsible investment and distribution of retirement funds from employees in the private sector who are not covered by the government retirement scheme.