There is no doubt that the age pyramid in Tunisia is reversing. Indeed, there are more seniors and retirees than active youth. With the number of unemployed, this does not help things very much as far as social funds are concerned.
The question was a burning issue before the Revolution. Since then, the focus is elsewhere and the government is almost no longer interested in pension funds. Funds are weakened by social plans, imposed by the difficult economic situation of Tunisia, early retirement and even by the social measures decided by the government for ailing companies, the most significant of which have a direct impact on the financial situation of funds.
The CNRPS (National Pension and Social Security Fund) that manages employees and their retirement pensions ended the year 2011 with a deficit of no less than 80 million Tunisian dinars (MTD). The conditions of new recruitment plans in the public service, are not, either, likely to replenish its coffers. On the contrary!
We spoke about all these issues with Sayed Blel, CEO of CNRPS, who has tried to outline solutions.
– How CNRPS is going?
Despite the difficulties, especially structural, faced by the Fund, which ended the year 2011 with a deficit of 80 MTD, we try to find solutions. Until 2007, the Tunisian state had acted by increasing contributions to cover the deficit, but we also realized that it was not the right solution. The latter lies, according to us, in revising the social security schemes because it is no longer reasonable to continue this way as a result of the life expectancy that extends to 74 years and some schemes where retirement is at 55 years and even 50 years for social reasons.
– What would be the solution according to you?
There are a multitude of possible actions. We must first see the case of countries where the population growth rate is comparable to that of Tunisia, and which all eventually ended revising the retirement age. Today too, social security funds suffer from the release of staff for social reasons. One solution could be the revision of the entire system of retirement and finding something other than the contributions by employees and companies to bail out the Fund.
One might well think of a type of social tax that would come to support social contributions. Both employees and employers cannot do more. Increasing the contribution of the first would mean undermining his competitiveness. Increasing the contribution of the second, would add burdens to the employee whose purchasing power is already tight. It is this tax that could allow the state to intervene to alleviate the deficit and at least rebalance the finances of pension systems.
– It is our understanding that there are at least 4 projects that are important to you? What are they?
First there is the unique identifier in the public sector. It takes four to five months for CNRPS to give it to each employee and this delayed his salary. The cause was the centralization of the computer processing of all these records. Since the past year, the decentralization we had decided has reduced this period from 5 months to only 48 hours in case we receive the record in paper. It is even now possible, through the website CNRPS to file one’s application and to have one’s unique identifier within the day.
The second project is the individual account. Before, public enterprises used to deposit or pay the contributions of their employees, collectively not individually on behalf of each employee separately. The Fund therefore could not determine who contributed with which amount. The surprise might then happen for the employee at retirement. Surprises are so huge for employees working in companies privatized or liquidated, with which disputes can even lead to justice. In collaboration with the NIC (National Informatics Centre) and its system “Insaf” (Fair), we receive, now, monthly and on an individual basis, contributions paid on behalf of each employee or public officer separately.
– Is this measure retroactive?
That is, for now, possible only for contributions made in 2000 and 2011. We are currently working, in cooperation with the INC, employers and public enterprises, on the reconstruction of the career of all public officers, so that everything can be found in the individual account of each employee and officer. For local communities, we have set up the system “Oujour” (Salaries) to make life easier for the retiree or future retiree and so that he would find all his contributions in a completely reconstituted career to the CNRPS.
– Nonetheless your services do not archive everything and the public officer may find himself required to bring some document from a company that has disappeared!
We have started this work, but only for people who retire in 2012, 2013 and 2014. For those, all records are stored electronically, available only at the regional level. With this, we have strengthened the powers of regional offices which were mere post boxes. Treatment and control of the pension are now made at the regional level and even the management of disputes is done by regional offices of the CNRPS, which broadens their prerogative, brings services closer to customers and reduces the work of the Fund at the central level.