Response to Tribune article, Thursday April 9th, 2009
Derek Osborne, Consultant Actuary at the National Insurance Board is advising the public that though the 8th Actuarial Review of the National Insurance Fund, which includes long-term projections of the Fund and recommendations aimed at enhancing the Fund’s long-term sustainability as well as its ongoing relevance, has been completed, it has not yet been tabled in Parliament as is required by law. He says until the report is tabled and accepted by Government, he is restricted from making public its findings and recommendations. However, an article in the Tribune’s business section of April 9, 2009, makes references to the unofficial report, and so in an attempt to clear up any misunderstanding that may arise from the article, Osborne stated the following facts as it relates to the current status and projected outlook for the National Insurance Fund.
“The National Insurance Fund now has assets of $1.6 billion. The current contribution rate of 8.8% has been unchanged since the inception of the Scheme in 1974. Long-term projections of the Fund presented in periodic actuarial reviews have always indicated that this contribution rate would not be adequate to sustain the Fund indefinitely, and that rate increases would be required as the scheme matures.
“National pension systems are financed differently from private pension systems. It is important that private pension plans be fully funded to ensure that if the employer goes out of business that pension assets are sufficient to meet liabilities. For public social security systems, however, full funding is not important and thus the contribution rate in early years is often set well below the actuarial cost of benefits. In fact, full funding is inadvisable in most cases given the significant economic, investment and political risks associated with the massive asset pool that would build up. If the National Insurance Plan were fully funded it would have assets of more than 5 times its current size with little opportunities to invest these assets prudently.
“As stated in the National Insurance Fund’s 2007 Financial Statement, the current Fund ($1.6 billion) together with future contributions at 8.8% will not be sufficient to meet future obligations by approximately $8 billion. These projections are made for illustrative purposes only and are based on there being no changes to the contribution rate or benefit provisions in the next 60 years, a situation that is not expected. This shortfall is consistent with the way the scheme is designed and does not in any way infer that the National Insurance Fund is currently in crisis or needs to make drastic changes to benefit provisions or the contribution rate to reduce this projected deficit.”
Osborne stresses that National Insurance is too important a program for it to ever go broke and there should be no doubt that governments will act in a timely manner to ensure that the Fund remains sustainable for future generations.