IRR warns against planned pension grab

5 June 2020 - The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) notes with concern media reports that elements in the tripartite alliance are considering using ‘prescribed assets’ to help fund South Africa’s economic growth.

Press Release 

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) notes with concern media reports that elements in the tripartite alliance are considering using ‘prescribed assets’ to help fund South Africa’s economic growth.

According to a Bloomberg report, using the pensions of South Africans in both the private and public sectors is envisaged as a way to help kick-start the economy.

This comes on the heels of comments by Enoch Godongwana, the head of economic transformation in the governing African National Congress (ANC), that private pension fund managers be allowed to invest directly in state finance institutions.

The IRR strongly opposes the forced use of private or public pensions to fund infrastructure projects or other schemes as a way of trying to stimulate the economy post-Covid-19. Prescribed assets – where fund managers are compelled to invest at least some money in sectors or projects determined by the government – must not be used to fund ANC vanity projects.

While the use of prescribed assets by the apartheid government is often suggested as a justification for doing the same today, returns on money invested via prescribed assets were far lower than the returns on equities, making South Africans poorer at retirement than they would otherwise have been.

Implementing a regime of prescribed assets will not be difficult, as it will require only a change in Regulation 28, which governs how pensions and retirement annuities can be invested.

Instead of looking to the savings of ordinary South Africans, the government should implement real reforms that will unlock the economic potential of the country and its citizens, rather than continuing to rely on ideas which have failed dismally over the past decade of ANC governance. Real action must be taken on corruption, and the government should abandon the idea that it can continually bail out failing state-owned enterprises. At the same time, black economic empowerment must be replaced by a policy capable of genuinely empowering the mass of ordinary South Africans rather than merely a politically connected few.

Said Senior Policy Researcher at the IRR, Marius Roodt: ‘We have long warned of the threat of prescribed assets to the retirement funds of ordinary South Africans. We will continue to pressure fund managers to work with us and others to keep the government’s hands off South Africans’ nest eggs. Instead of looking to taking the pot of money that South Africans have scrimped and saved to build up, the government must implement true reform which unlocks the enormous potential of our country, instead of once again looking to failed ideas which we know do not work.’
 

Media contact: Marius Roodt, IRR Senior Policy Researcher Tel: 063 694 2611 Email: marius@irr.org.za
Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za
Kelebogile Leepile Tel: 079 051 0073 Email: kelebogile@irr.org.za
 
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