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19.11.2008 Business & Finance

Farmers, SMEs to enjoy pension scheme

By The Statesman

Farmers from all areas of the country's agricultural sector have today been given the opportunity to decide their future under a new pension scheme.

They are to enjoy the new Informal Sector Pension Scheme together with Small and Medium Enterprise operators under the new Pension Reform Law.

Farmers, especially cocoa farmers who have contributed immensely towards the economic development of Ghana over the past fifty years, have the privilege to enjoy their old age when they contribute to the scheme.

They are to pay a percentage of their monthly, quarterly or seasonal earnings into either the Occupational Scheme Account or the Retirement Account to protect and improve their lives in the event of calamity or old age.

Explaining the operations of the informal sector scheme at the company"s stakeholder forum last week, Francis Sapare-Grant, Managing Director, described it as a "major initiative introduced to expand coverage to the informal sector which forms between 80% and 85% of the economy.'

According to him, the Trust embarked on numerous research schemes and realised that the current system wasn't suitable for the informal sector.

Dr Sapare-Grant noted that about 11 million of the country's population was not covered by the current scheme, even though they were eligible.

Based on their findings, the new scheme was initiated and introduced on a pilot basis in 2005 in Accra, Kumasi, Koforidua and Takoradi.

When reviewed over the course of the year, he said stakeholders proposed that a body be established to manage it. 'The scheme is a voluntary money purchase scheme based on the individual equivalence principle,' he stated.

'Each member of the scheme is therefore entitled to benefit based exclusively on the accumulated savings in a member's occupational account after five months of membership.

 The amount accruing in the Retirement Account cannot be withdrawn until specific contingencies occur.'

He disclosed that since the scheme began operation, a total of 13,715 members had been registered, contributing a sum of GH¢1,167,411.08.  Accra recorded the highest amount with 3,232 members and a contribution of GH¢384,577.55, making 33%.

Kumasi followed, recording 4,605 members with GH¢297,998.90, or 25%.Takoradi registered 3,791 members and a figure of GH¢300,142.93, or 26% and Koforidua registered 2,087 members who contributed GH¢184,791.70, which is 16% of total contribution.

Speaking to The Statesman via telephone yesterday, an accountant of the Trust, Ransford Odoi, said since farmers and fishermen normally generate incomes on a seasonal basis, they had conducted further research to determine if they could develop a perfect system that would facilitate an effective seasonal collection of SSNIT contributions from these special groups.

Analysts have asserted that Ghanaian farmers have lived and worked over the past fifty years of Ghana's history without a scheme to cover and decide their future.

They have therefore commended the present system initiated by the officials of SSNIT, saying it would go a long way to enhancing the livelihood of farmers and their counterparts in the SME sector.

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