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Tanzania 2014 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Irene Isaka, Director General of the Social Security Regulatory Authority, on the social security system, population coverage, and increased investment.

Irene Isaka
BIOGRAPHY
Irene Isaka holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Dar es Salaam, specializing in Econometrics and Monetary Economics. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, specializing in industrial economics, a post-graduate Diploma in Pension Fund investments, and a diploma in Risk Management for Investment of Pension Funds and Housing Finance. She had 15 years of work experience at numerous organizations, including the National Social Security Fund, the Parastatal Pensions Fund, Stanbic, and the International Development Group, before being appointed the Director General of the SSRA.

Could you describe the structure of Tanzania's social security system and your role in regulating it?

Social security in Tanzania follows a three-pillar approach, with the first dealing with the social assistance system, financed by taxes. The second pillar is contributory, and contains the pension funds, which are the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), the Parastatal Pensions Fund (PPF), the Public Service Pensions Fund (PSPF), and the Local Authorities Pensions Fund (LAPF). We also have one provident fund, called the Government Employees Provident Fund (GEPF). On this pillar, we have the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). These all rest on mandatory schemes established by an act of parliament. The third pillar supports nascent supplementary schemes, and occupational-based ones established by trust deeds. Today, we simply have a social system in place dominated by the Mandatory Defined Benefits Schemes. Regarding the first pillar, although the government offers social assistance to vulnerable groups, the country has not established a universal pension. The Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA) and the Ministry of Labor and Employment are working to introduce a universal pension for the elderly. Among SSRA's roles is the regulation of the sector, awareness building of social security products and services, and regular monitoring of sector performance.

What is the current coverage ratio?

The coverage ratio is around 3.6% of the population, and roughly 6.5% of the working population. Limited coverage stems from sectorial membership, a lack of awareness of social security products, inadequate benefits, lack of transferability, and premature withdrawals.

Since 2011, what changes have you seen in the market?

The most significant, in 2012, was a comprehensive overhaul of the legal and regulatory framework of the Acts of all existing mandatory social security schemes to comply with the Social Security Regulatory (SSR) Act. Transparency has increased as schemes inform members of their operations at annual conferences, boosting awareness. SSRA, in collaboration with the Bank of Tanzania, has issued uniform investment guidelines for all pension funds, raising good governance in fund management. The funds' assets, originally at around TZS3.7 trillion, exceeded TZS5.2 trillion in 2012. Current legislation imposes a penalty for avoidance, or delayed payment of contributions. The turnaround time has been improved from two months to one to two weeks, depending on the fund. Another innovative step has been an amendment to the SSR Act that allows 50% of contributions to be collateralized for mortgages. We know that the notion of social security traditionally implies waiting until retirement; however, our members are keen to secure their future beforehand.

What has led to substantial growth in premiums?

The first factor is the harmonized legal and regulatory framework. The second is enforcement; every employee is registered with a mandatory social security scheme and employers must pay timely contributions. The SSRA protects members against employer non-payment. The third factor is investment guidelines, which have increased prudent fund management.