Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Concerted Efforts Needed to Beef Up Social Security

NEWS that social security, despite its importance, is only accessed by a few people in the country is not amusing. Available records show that only six per cent of the eligible working population has access to the social security funds.

This means that only 1.4 million of the potential 22 million working class people in the country are actually saving for their survival after retirement. By any measure, the population accessing social security services is meagre and as PPF Pensions Fund Director General, William Erio observed, it begs for urgent intervention by both the public and private sectors.

Authorities need to put in place a conducive environment that will attract private sector investments in this area so that more people can access such a vital service. It is imperative therefore to ensure that the number of social security companies increase to allow more competition but also wider coverage of the 22 million people. As always, the bigger chunk of our people not getting such vital services are rural based farmers, fishermen and pastoralists who feed this country and contribute a lot to the nation's gross domestic product.

With more competition and better incentives, social security funds will obviously extend to rural areas where millions of potential clients are waiting to be recruited. But better incentives and arrangement will also allow social security funds to recruit members from the majority urban informal sector traders and service providers.

It is only with a well secured population that real economic development can be sustained because the more money the funds collect, the more money they will invest in infrastructure development. It is clear that despite their small coverage of the country's workforce, social security funds have invested a lot in key infrastructure projects.

Here, we may refer to mega projects such as the University of Dodoma, National Assembly building in Dodoma and now the Kigamboni Bridge. Social security funds have also provided vital financing to their members through Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOS) and in some cases assisted to boost capital of the near collapsing commercial banks.

But while such funds invest their members' monies in meaningful development projects, they also assure their members a secure and happy future after retirement and reduce the burden of caring for the elderly often placed on the shoulders of the government or communities. We need to start acting now in order to avert a catastrophe of exception proportion in future as those working today are heading towards retirement. Failing to plan is planning to fail, let's do it now for a better future.

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