IN THE RIGHT HANDS

Oman 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hamdah Said Al Shamsi, Acting General Manager of the Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI), on how the role of insurance has developed and earned itself a distinction in Oman.

Hamdah Said Al Shamsi
BIOGRAPHY
Hamdah Said Al Shamsi has over 26 years of experience in various leadership roles. She started her career with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) before moving to PASI 22 years ago. Al Shamsi has a master’s of business degree in professional accounting from Victoria University of Technology in Melbourne, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina, US. She is a contributing editor to several major magazines and newspapers in Oman. She writes a weekly column for the Business Section of Oman Daily Newspaper. Al Shamsi has also published five books.

How has the role of PASI evolved since its inception 25 years ago?

PASI is the only social insurance organization in Oman covering Omanis working in the private sector. The issuance of the social insurance law was part of the government's initiative to diversify the economy and encourage young Omanis to take jobs in the private sector. The role of PASI has been strong throughout the past years since the application of the Royal Decree No. (72/91) came in force in July 1992. This can easily be seen from the development of the number of workers covered (and their employers) as well as the development of benefits and reforms done to the social insurance system. In terms of the number of covered workers, the statistics show a big jump from as little as few thousands in the early years of the 1990s to more than 210,000 in 2016. On the benefits side, the level of benefits provided by PASI witnessed a remarkable improvement. That includes increasing the accrual factor in the formula for calculating pensions, and also, a minimum pension was introduced and then increased at least three times to reach a current level of OMR202,500. Other benefits were also improved in all branches of social insurance provided by PASI.

What process does PASI's Investment Department follow to make the right investment decisions?

PASI as a social insurance organization receives contributions from employers, employees, and the government on a monthly bases. This fund is invested in order to pay the pensions and other administrative expenses. PASI always pursues the best ways to practice its investment activities successfully and achieve the objective of investment safety and value. In 2007, PASI developed an Asset Allocation Model that takes into account the best of the risks, returns, and the obligations of the authority. This model among other initiatives of the authority won the International Social Security Association (ISSA) Best Practice Award for Asia and the Pacific. In addition, PASI seeks to adhere to the model in building a framework that issued by the Executive Regulation of Investment Authority and pension funds in the Sultanate of Oman taking into account the actuarial study outcomes. PASI seeks to give priority to national projects in its investment strategies. The authority tries to diversify its investment portfolio as much as possible both locally and internationally through international managers. Around 80% of the fund is invested in Oman and the remainder outside.

What do you consider to be the most important change your company will implement in the medium term?

In the coming few months, PASI's priorities will be to transform its services online to take advantage of its newly launched portal and extend the coverage to cover the unemployed and non-Omani workers. In addition to that, an active investment plan will be implemented in order to increase the fund income from investment by taking advantage of the government initiatives to diversify and economy. For 2016, a new Asset Allocation Model is being put in place to take into account the fund increase, which resulted from basing the contribution on the gross salary rather than the basic salary. A number of human resource development projects are planned for the next few months that will hopefully take the organization into the next level. The authority plans to move into the new headquarter by 4Q2016. The new headquarter is part of a huge multipurpose investment project in Oman with a budget of around OMR68 million. That development includes our new headquarters and commercial buildings, as well as six residential buildings. In regard to the social insurance projects, both the Insurance Scheme for Omanis Employed Abroad and the Insurance Scheme for GCC Extension Coverage are being updated, and a new unemployment scheme is expected to come out in 4Q2016.