Econ-ity on Understanding the Social Security Fund: Opportunities and Challenges

Amid much fanfare last year, Social Security Fund was launched in Nepal. There are supposedly many opportunities attested with this whilst there are many difficulties that have risen alongside. Addressing the issue, Samridhhi Foundation hosted an ‘Econ-ity’ discussion on “Understanding the Social Security fund: Opportunities and Challenges,” at Hotel Annapurna, Kathmandu. Samriddhi Foundation’s regular discussion platform for sharing ideas and perspectives on various political economic agendas underlying various contemporary issues, led the discussion to understand various frameworks in regards to the contribution based social security scheme.    

Ms. Ankshita Chaudhary, a Researcher at Samriddhi Foudnation, began the session by giving a brief introduction of the emergence of the contribution-based social security scheme. The presentation highlighted – the inability of the SMEs to cope with rising costs, differences between the government and private sector employees, issues of taxation, among many – some of the difficulties associated with the fund. The program was moderated by Mr. Sesh Mani Dahal, with Mr. Ramesh Badal (Vice-President, GEFONT), Mr. Kapil Mani Gnawali, ED (Social Security Fund), Mr. Rajesh Agrawal, Vice President (CNI) and  Mr. Anil Sharma, ED (Nepal Bankers’ Association) on the panel. The discussion program was a huge success as the valued panelists provided great inputs on the identified issues.

Under the social security scheme, enrolled employees will be entitled to assistance for medical treatment, health and maternity protection, accident and disability protection, dependent family protection, and elderly protection (pension). The employers who have signed up in the SSF system have listed over 50,140 employees for their contribution in the scheme. However, there lies many underlining issues that needs to be addressed. Mr. Kapil Mani Gnawali, ED of Social Security Fund stated “Social Security Fund is working on solving the issue of taxation in tandem with Ministry of Finance,”.

Mr. Anil Sharma, speaking on behalf of Nepal Bankers Association, addressing the queries on the involvement of the banking sector in strengthening the scheme stressed on the fact that the association is not against Social Security Scheme. They have definitely observed some contradictory provisions in the Act. As a representative of the private sector, he believes that there is a need to discuss on the Act itself. 

Some of the issues in regards to the question attested were whether the social security scheme in Nepal should be sector-specific based on the varying needs and capacity of different sectors or the same for all sectors. Amongst many inputs by Mr. Rajesh Agrawal, he stressed on the need to balance the schemes in regards to varying sectors.  He also ensured that CNI has also raised voices for the small and medium enterprises in Nepal and not just the large corporations. He further ensured that they will address the needs of the SMEs in the social security scheme in the days to come. 

Moreover, the dialogue explored many opportunities. The event delved into the emerging trend with the implications of the recent developments and benefits that will accrue the people from different sector were also discussed in the session. Likewise, the program attempted to inform the mass on the possible directions that Nepal is heading towards to ensure stability and security. 

Lots of queries were put forward by the attendees, among which, ‘The government has treated private-sector employees as second class citizens. This is obvious when we compare the benefits contributors receive from the Fund with benefits the government employees receive from Pension Fund,’ a  member of the audience had his say in the matter. To this, Mr. Sharma assured that they have a professional team at the Social Security Fund who will have a digital system in place and will have the regulation in place in about two months.

The program ended with a lively interaction with the members of the audience. There was a general consensus that in order for the scheme to function properly, it is of great importance that the general mass is well educated and are well aware of the benefits that comes with its implication. Mr. Anil Sharma also agreed on the fact that a lot of shortcomings need to be handled addressing all the issues in order to achieve positive outcomes. Likewise, Mr. Dahal concluded the session, highlighting the need of introducing more packages so that the employees will not be reluctant to join the fund.