By Genalyn Kabiling
The Social Security System (SSS) must find its own solution to fund its proposed pension hike without relying on government subsidy, according to the country’s budget chief.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said it is unfair for taxpayers that public funds will be used to bankroll the private sector pension fund.
“To give you a historical perspective, even during the time of President Marcos, he did not touch SSS because it is a private pension fund. You contribute to that fund and when you retire, you get benefits from that fund,” Diokno said in a Palace press briefing.
“Given that perspective, I don’t think it is fair to say use taxpayers’ money to subsidize the benefits of the pension members, the SSS members,” he said.
Instead, Diokno urged the SSS board to consider prudent options such as imposing higher SSS member contributions and intensifying debt collection efficiency, to shore up its kitty.
“If there’s any solution, I think they should find it within the system and what we are proposing is a salary, a contribution, adjustment,” he said.
The proposed higher SSS contribution, however, should only be done after the government has implemented the tax reforms, Diokno said. “Because of the tax reforms, you’ve got more money in your pockets, and therefore you are now in a position to contribute a small amount for the pension of those who are already receiving pension. That’s our solution,” he said.
Diokno also encouraged SSS to increase its collection efficiency to improve its financial standing. “I understand some corporations have been indebted to SSS, maybe they could call on them,” he said.
Former Bayan Muna party list Rep. Neri Colmenares earlier proposed a government subsidy to prolong the life of the pension fund and pave the way for the pension increase.
Colmenares made the proposal after President Duterte has been reluctant in approving the proposed pension hike due to concerns it might cause the bankruptcy of the SSS.
Duterte is expected to meet with his economic team soon to come up with a win-win solution that would balance the interests of all concerned parties.
In the same Palace news conference, Diokno said the President could return the memorandum sent by the SSS board on the proposed pension hike and ask them to make another proposal.
“If I were the President, I would do that, okay. I appointed you there specifically to come up with a solution. You manage a private fund,” he said.
Even though the SSS pension hike is one of Duterte’s campaign promises, Diokno admitted that it was unfair to pass the buck to the President.
“It should not have reached the President’s desk. The board of trustees should have exercised leadership and say, ‘no, we cannot do it unless we do the following things.’ And there are many things like they can increase the collection efficiency,” he said.
Diokno, likewise, defended the President from criticisms he is reneging on a campaign promise about the SSS pension increase.
He pointed out that there is a difference between the “candidate Duterte” and the “President Duterte.” A candidate may promise one thing but the president, after studying the data, may realize it cannot be done, he added.