S.N.P.F. under fire over proposed 10% contribution increase
The Samoa National Provident Fund (SNPF) has defended itself against claims from concerned Chamber of Commerce members, who said the move to increase contributions to 10 per cent over three years is rushed, and done without due consultation with the private sector.
CEO of the Fund, Pauli Prince Suhren met the membership on Monday night to explain the increase and how it will benefit not only the members and their retirement funds, but the nation as a whole through investments that the fund will be able to make.
Several members, such as Valerie Saena Tuia of Taumeasina Rentals said they were disappointed in the lack of a consultation process.
“Really the private sector has not been consulted on these issues,” Ms Tuia said.
“The issues brought up today (Monday) are very serious issues from the employers' perspective.
“Has there been a study carried out on the employers and on the members? It’s a big jump for us as employers. For you it is small but for us it is a big amount to factor in.”
Responding to the concerns over a lack of consultation, Pauli said the S.N.P.F did in fact circulate a survey to both employers and employees 12 months ago, and the results showed an even amount of support for and against an increase in contributions.
“We did circulate last year around this time a questionnaire to 250 of the top employers in Samoa including members of the Chamber,” he explained, adding that the questionnaire included asking whether the employer would support a contribution increase.
“The results understandably, because of the size of the sample, may or may not reflect where opinion is at in terms of all employers, but it did indicate a 50/50 split.
“We also did a similar survey of employees and the result was approximately 60 per cent did agree with a rise and 40 did not.”
In conversations with the Chamber secretariat in the last week, Pauli said he has learned the questionnaire may not have been filled out by the intended persons, despite letters addressed specifically to the general managers or managing directors of the surveyed companies.
“It’s beyond our control whether it was answered by the persons that should have answered it,” he said.
“Cabinet approved it in March and the fund was not at liberty to say whether there would be an increase – until and unless Cabinet gives a green light – which they did a few weeks ago, which is why we are now able to talk about it at liberty and more than happy to answer questions.”
Pauli acknowledged the survey could have been done better, but he recognises that most employers are largely concerned with the cost of the increase to their business, which is why the fund will work with employers to make the transition easier.
“I am giving you assurance that we are ready to assist everyone here,” he said.
“There are employers out there that are able to fund the extra 1 per cent over the next three years without a problem.
“There are those who will not, and that is why we are able to offer an assistance package, for those willing to take it up come the time when we raise the contributions.”
He added that perhaps increasing contributions to the fund is never convenient, and that at least the staggered increase over three years will help.
“I don’t envisage a situation where I come to Chamber and ask whether you would accept a 10 per cent increase in 2025 and the answer would be yes.
“From our point of view – and I speak for the fund and for the Government as well – providing the phased increase is a way to be able to smoothen it, and for each employer to be able to negotiate with the fund.”