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PRAN Card – Permanent Retirement Account Number

A Pension provides people with a Monthly Income when they are no longer Earning.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

District lags much behind in Atal Pension Scheme

The Pradhan Mantri Atal Pension Scheme has received only 1,279 applications so far mainly because of the apathy of the implementing agencies and scheme's failure to convince the potential beneficiaries. Though the installment is very low, very few people have participated in it.

As per the figures shared by the district lead bank, Bank of India, 608 applications from rural areas have received for the scheme while 671 from urban areas. Out of 1,279 as many as 1,261 bank accounts attached for the scheme are from public sector banks.

Compared to the pension scheme, there are more applicants for Prime Minister Suraksha Bima Yojana and Prime Minister Jivan Jyoti Bima Yojana in the district. Both the schemes have received 1,45,474 and 1,48,063 applications so far.

M G Kulkarni, general manager of lead district bank, Bank of India said, "It is challenge for us to convince the people about importance of the pension scheme. People are aware of the pension schemes up to some extent but still there is little response from the people for it. We are working out some plans to increase its reach-out."

Sources close to the development said that the planning of the scheme has some problems. The maximum pension offered in the scheme is Rs 5,000 per month. Even if someone is in his or her 30s and pay higher amount as installment to get Rs 5,000 per month pension; nobody is sure that after 20 years what value Rs 5,000 will have in the market. Unfortunately, no senior government official comes out and addresses this basic and pin-pointed question about the pension scheme, said the official on the condition of anonymity.

Sujit Minchekar, Shiv Sena MLA from Kolhapur district said that the government officials need to take extra efforts so that some people can participate in the scheme. Getting some pension after turning 60 is necessary and some people will benefit for sure. But there has to be more efforts than regular ways of issuing media releases and distributing leaflets. The real beneficiaries of the scheme are people from unorganized sectors working in urban areas as well as some small scale industries, he said.


Centre releases Rs 2,000 crore for pension scheme

This is in addition to the Rs 250 crore contributed by the central government as grant-in-aid for providing minimum pension of Rs 1,000 to the pensioners of Employees' Pension Scheme, 1995.

The union government has released Rs 2,000 crore to the Employees' Pension Scheme as its contribution for the year 2015-16, Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya said on Monday.

This is in addition to the Rs 250 crore contributed by the central government as grant-in-aid for providing minimum pension of Rs 1,000 to the pensioners of Employees' Pension Scheme, 1995, the minister said in a statement.

The minimum pension for the EPS pensioners was increased to Rs 1,000 per month in September last year.

It is necessary to infuse additional amount by the central government to sustain the continuance of the minimum pension, the statement added.

The contribution of central government is calculated at the rate of 1.16 percent of the monthly wages of the members contributing to the scheme.

This is in addition to the funding by the employers covered under the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, contributing 8.33 percent of the monthly wages of the members of the scheme.

Banks to calculate, disburse 6 % dearness relief to pensioners

New Delhi, All pension disbursing authorities including nationalised banks have been asked to calculate the quantum of dearness relief payable to pensioners, after the recent six per cent increase in it by the government.

The move comes following a decision by the Union Cabinet early this month regarding six per cent hike (from existing 113 to 119 per cent) in dearness allowance (DA) to central government employees and dearness relief (DR) to pensioners with effect from July 1, 2015.  With the increase, central government employees and pensioners will get 119 per cent of DA and DR, respectively.

"It will be the responsibility of the pension disbursing authorities, including the nationalised banks, etc.
to calculate the quantum of DR payable in each individual case," an order issued today by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said.

In the case of retired Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, necessary orders will be issued by the Department of Justice separately, it said.

The offices of Accountant General and authorised pension disbursing banks are requested to arrange payment of relief to pensioners etc.

Without waiting for any further instructions from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Reserve Bank of India, the order said.

There are about 50 lakh central government employees and 56 lakh pensioners.


Saturday, 26 September 2015

APY the subscriber may actually be getting a sub optimal return

In the recent budget, the Finance Minister announced the Atal Pension Yojana, which promises a fixed pension of at least Rs.1,000 at age 60 if subscribers contribute pre-defined amounts over their working life. The APY suffers from five problems.

1. Clarity of objective

The NPS-Swavalamban (NPS-S) has been the flagship pension scheme for the informal sector since 2010. While it has taken root over the last few years, problems in the design and process of the scheme persist. The APY seems to be motivated by these concerns. The scheme document says: `… coverage under Swavalamban Scheme is inadequate mainly due to lack of clarity of pension benefits at the age after 60. The Finance Minister has, therefore, announced a new initiative called Atal Pension Yojana (APY) in his Budget Speech for 2015-16′. Clarity of pension benefits could be interpreted as clarity of process for receipt of benefits, or certainty about the amount of benefit. The exact interpretation has not been made clear. It seems that the intent of the government is to migrate the entire existing NPS-S to the APY [See Page 7 of the APY FAQs]. It is not clear that this is the right approach. A careful examination of the lessons obtained from NPS-S over the last four years (e.g. Sane and Thomas, 2015) would have helped design a better response. Perhaps there was a role for co-contribution separately from the pension guarantee.

2. Design of the procedure

There is considerable confusion on how the APY is actually going to work. Initially, the APY was to be sold through the same aggregators that distribute the (NPS-S). New documentation indicates that it is actually only open to bank account holders. All the existing NPS-S customers are to be migrated to the APY with an option to opt-out. Does this place the responsibility of opening bank accounts for NPS-S customers on the aggregators? What happens to those who wish to continue with the NPS-Lite i.e. use the NPS without the co-contributions? In that case, the PFRDA ought to define well-defined standards of skill and care that aggregators will be expected to exercise towards a customer as invariably the aggregator will end up playing the role of an advisor when making a decision on whether to opt-out of the APY, or continue only the APY or continue the APY along with NPS-Lite.

The scheme levies penalties on those who are not able to maintain the required balance in the savings bank account for contribution on the specified date and close bank accounts if contributions are not paid for 24 months. However, we know from the NPS-S experience that informal sector workers often do not have liquidity, are not able to contribute on time, but do come back over subsequent periods. This design of the APY will invariably exclude those who cannot maintain a balance in their savings bank accounts or make regular contributions, defeating the purpose of providing a formal sector savings mechanism.

3. Price of the guarantee

Apparently innocent guarantees can prove to be disastrously costly when viewed in their entirety (e.g. Shah, 2003). The APY seems to be motivated by the desire of the government to ensure that on contributing continuously, a member gets at least a pension of Rs.1,000. While not explicitly specified, the APY seems like a minimum return guarantee which will ensure that accumulated savings at retirement do not fall below a certain value. There are different kinds of guarantees, and several ways to design minimum return guarantees. For example, an absolute rate of return guarantee promises a pre-specified rate of return, while a relative rate of return guarantee promises a return close to the average of all funds. The motivation for the choice of this particular design, and the calculations that influenced the choice have not been articulated. Under the APY the subscriber may actually be getting a sub optimal return. This is not surprising, as all guarantees come at a cost (Pennacchi, 1999). However, policy makers need to show the application of mind: the class of guarantees which was evaluated, and the logic that led up to this choice. The contributions under APY are to be invested as per the investment guidelines prescribed by Ministry of Finance, Government of India. The investment guidelines, and how they would finance the guarantee of the APY are not yet clear.

4. Safeguards against arbitrary increases

Almost all pension guarantees in the world have turned into fiscal problems. Even if a guarantee is fiscally sound at the outset, modifications to the program design later on render it bankrupt. Governments are tempted to increase benefits prior to an election. Apparently innocuous changes are announced, which add up to many percentage points of GDP. Any guarantee program requires an elaborate array of safeguards to protect against reckless actions in the future. The APY features no safeguards. It does not require governments to show actuarial calculations before any changes to the design are introduced. An example of a defined benefit guaranteed return plan running into funding difficulties is the Employees Pension Scheme (EPS). Estimates suggest that the EPS is facing a shortfall of Rs.54,000 crore, and several changes in scheme design have now been put in place owing to these funding difficulties.

5. Improper process

Indian finance has taken a big step forward by committing to the Handbook on adoption of governance enhancing and non-legislative elements of the draft Indian Financial Code. The procedural requirements in the Handbook, for framing regulations include a statement of objectives and a cost benefit analysis of each of the provisions. Many of the mistakes of the APY could have been avoided by the use of this process. It is not too late to apply this process to APY, even now.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

India aims to created under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana to extend insurance

The Government of India is joining the UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance. The announcement comes on the First Anniversary of the Prime Minister  Narendra Modi’s flagship financial inclusion programme Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).

Under PMJDY, in one year, about 180 million new accounts have been opened, with deposits totaling more than $3.4 billion (223 billion Rupees).

The new partnership with the Better Than Cash Alliance, made up of Governments, companies, and international organizations, is an extension of Indian Government’s commitment to reduce cash in its economy. Digital financial services lower the cost of providing financial services and make it more convenient for poor people to access their accounts.

The Union Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley said: “The scale of ambition of Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana has been much higher than for any other financial inclusion initiative in the past. The project has been instrumental in bringing almost all families of the country into the formal financial system and enabling citizens at grassroots level to perform financial transactions and keep their hard-earned money safe.”

India’s announcement comes ahead of next month’s United Nations Special Summit in New York, when Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and other world leaders will launch the adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Digital financial services are a key tool for the implementation of the goals, and advocates hope India’s leadership inspires other governments to harness the power of digital payments as a strategy for achieving the SDGs.

Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance said that India’s leadership and progress are inspirational for countries around the world. He said that by making the digitization of payments to achieve financial inclusion a top priority, the Indian Government is showing its commitment to improving the lives of its people and driving inclusive growth.

One year ago, the Government of India had announced PMJDY with a goal of covering every household with a bank account in less than five months’ time. The programme focuses on citizens excluded from the formal financial sector, including women, small farmers, and labourers. To ensure that these accounts are actively used, the Government is delivering financial products, such as credit for economic activity, as well as remittance facilities, insurance, and pension directly into the accounts.

The Union Finance Minister of India Shri Arun Jaitley said “We have been recognized by the Guinness World Records for opening over 1.8 crore (10 million) bank accounts in a single week. As a next step, the aim is to utilize these accounts for extending insurance, pension, and credit facilities to those who are currently excluded from these benefits.”

Dr. Hasmukh Adhia, then Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, said: “PMJDY has been a game changer in the country’s financial inclusion efforts. The initiative has demonstrated that when we converge the efforts of all stakeholders, and work in unison with clearly defined goals, unprecedented results follow.”

The financial inclusion programme, along with Aaadhar biometric Unique Identity cards that make it easier for the Government to identify social benefit recipients and the widespread use of mobile phones, are driving financial inclusion in India. It is also resulting in cost savings. The fuel subsidy programme, which is the world’s largest cash transfer programme, saved $2 billion (131 billion Rupees) by paying cooking gas consumers directly into their bank accounts, according to a new paper by Columbia University.

Atal Pension Yojana (APY) has been modified to make it more acceptable

Pension scheme Atal Pension Yojana (APY) has been modified to make it more viable and acceptable for informal sector workers with intermittent incomes, an official statement said on Thursday.

The provision of mandatory monthly contributions and penal provisions for non-contribution towards the scheme by subscribers have been removed and the new rules allow individual subscribers to make monthly, quarterly or half yearly contributions instead, a finance ministry statement said.

The discontinuation of monetary contribution towards the pension scheme has been greatly modified in favour of the subscriber, while any account will not be deactivated and closed until the account balance with self-contributions minus the government's co-contributions becomes zero due to deduction of account maintenance charges and fees, the statement added.

Penalty for delayed payment has been simplified to Re.1 per month for a contribution of Rs.100, and the earlier practice of levying different penalties for different slabs has been done away with.

Premature exit from the scheme before 60 years of age was not allowed except in the event of death of terminal illness but now a subscriber can voluntarily exit from the scheme and receive his contribution along with the interest earned on it after deduction of account maintenance charges, the statement said. However, the government's co-contribution along with the interest earned on it will not be paid.

Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kolkata in May, APY aims to provide a minimum monthly guaranteed pension to subscribers ranging from Rs.1,000, Rs.2,000, Rs.3,000, Rs.4,000 or Rs.5,000.


India’s retired military men keep interest rates higher in Asia’s third-largest economy?

Will a new multi-billion dollar bill to take care of India’s retired military men keep interest rates higher in Asia’s third-largest economy?

Since New Delhi agreed over the weekend to demands from members of the military for a more generous pension scheme, analysts have aired doubts about the ability of the government to stick to its fiscal plans.

Any concern that the government is unable to stick to its fiscal targets could delay a lowering of interest rates and even a stronger economic recovery, analysts say, because it could convince Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan to put off any further easing.

Mr. Rajan is keeping New Delhi on a tight leash: he has said time and again that a healthy budget is a pre-condition to a more accommodative policy.

The government has in principle accepted what India has been calling the “One Rank One Pension” plan, a demand by defense personnel that the same pension should be paid to armed force retirees with the same rank and the same length of service, regardless of the year they retired.

The move is likely to add significantly on the fiscal bill: economists at HSBC estimate it will cost the country 160 billion rupees, or around $2.5 billion, in the year ending next March alone.

Unfortunately that’s not the only unexpected cost in the country’s books this year. Last month, the finance ministry announced it would be spending 170 billion rupees to recapitalize capital-starved public sector banks. Meanwhile the recent stock market weakness in India and around the world has made it unlikely India will be able to raise the revenues it had planned to pocket by selling stakes in government companies. That could leave another 340 billion rupee shortfall, HSBC estimates.

“All of this means that the path of fiscal consolidation has become harder,” HSBC chief India economist Pranjul Bhandari said in a note Monday.

Some positive factors – including a fall in India’s fuel and fertilizer subsidy bill on the back of falling commodity prices, expenditure reductions and a higher-than-expected dividend from the central bank – will help relieve the pressure for now. But the outlook for next year is less encouraging, economists warn.

India should be able to meet its target of keeping its fiscal deficit at 3.9% of gross domestic product this fiscal year. However if it wants to continue lowering that deficit as planned to 3.5% next year and 3.0% the year, India will need to cut costs and find new sources of revenues, said Nomura in a report Monday.

“Continued fiscal consolidation beyond FY16 will require structurally addressing both the expenditure (deregulating the remaining fuel and fertilizer prices) and revenue side (broaden the tax base) of the fiscal balance,” Nomura said.

Mr. Rajan will be watching closely.  He cut rates three times since the start of the year to the current level of 7.25%, the lowest level India has seen since May 2013.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal he said that the RBI is still in “accommodative mode,” but he quickly added that the bank’s policy will be driven by upcoming news.

“We’re looking at the data to see what more room we have,” he said.


Friday, 21 August 2015

APY Subscribers can make half-yearly, quarterly payments

To increase the subscription of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) among informal sector workers and make the scheme more viable, the government has modified the flagship programme to give subscribers an option to make contributions on a monthly, quarterly or half-yearly basis, instead of only on a monthly basis earlier.

Also, the provision related to the discontinuation of payment of contribution has been substantially modified in favour of the subscriber, the finance ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

“The account will not be deactivated and closed till the account balance with self-contributions, minus the government co-contributions, becomes zero due to the deduction of account maintenance charges and fees,” it said.
Besides, the penalty on delayed payment has been simplified to just R1 per month for contribution of Rs 100, or part thereof, for each delayed monthly payment instead of different slabs given earlier.

Similarly, a premature exit from the scheme before 60 years of age was not permitted earlier except in exceptional circumstances, — in the event of the death of the beneficiary or terminal disease. Now the modified provision permits the subscriber to voluntarily exit with the condition that he shall only be refunded the contributions made by him to APY, along with the net actual interest earned on his contributions (after deducting the account maintenance charges).

The other condition enabling voluntary exit is that the government co-contribution, and the interest earned on the government co-contribution, shall not be returned to such subscribers.

The APY was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 9.


Friday, 7 August 2015

Pensions regulator PFRDA asks banks to process APY contributions quickly

Pensions regulator PFRDA has flayed banks for not adhering to timelines for processing contributions to recently launched Atal pension yojana (APY), which is among the key social security schemes launched by prime minister Narendra Modi in May.

The regulator has a daunting task of getting two crore subscribers for Atal pension yojana by this year end and as of now it has about five lakh subscribers enrolled. And tardy processing of contributions isn’t helping its cause much either. Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) administers the scheme and the institutional architecture of NPS is being utilised to enroll subscribers under Atal pension yojana.

In June 2015, there were several instances where subscriber contributions were delayed. PFRDA has warned that any overdue interest or subscriber compensation due to delay in processing may have to be borne by the concerned bank.

Under the schemes’ rules, banks are required to collect additional amount for delayed payments, such amount will vary from minimum Rs. 1 per month to Rs 10 per month.

Banks get an incentive for mobilising new accounts under Atal pension yojana and for promotion and development of the scheme as well. Under this particular scheme, a minimum pension amount is guaranteed by the government on the premise that certain parametres are met as per the guidelines. This is why timely remittance of funds and investment are crucial.

“It was observed that during June 2015, there were several instances where these timelines were not adhered by the banks. It may be noted that the delayed upload of contribution had also an adverse impact by way of overdue interest or increased monthly contribution for the subscribers due to change of age during the period of delay,” PFRDA said.

For example, a guaranteed Rs 5,000 monthly pension for a 35-year-old will require monthly investment of Rs 902. However, if the subscriber turns 36 during the period of delay, he/she will have to pay Rs 990 per month. PFRDA directed all the banks to adopt measures that will "streamline the process of contribution upload as per timelines."

Banks are required to generate the Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN) immediately after submission of applications and the subscribers are to be provided with acknowledgment slip indicating the pension amount opted and PRAN.

PFRDA directed banks to upload files containing subscriber’s data and remittance of funds collected on the second day of PRAN generation. By the fourth day, contributions should be matched and booked and units need to be allotted.


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