FRANCIS LUNGU, Lusaka
IN ZAMBIA and probably in most parts of the world, going into retirement has always posed a survival scare to many people especially those in formal employment.The fear that grips many workers is about whether or not they would be able to access their pension or benefits on time or not.
This anxiety is real in that there is a catalogue of cases of retirees who have died in poverty without getting their benefits from their respective pension schemes.
In some cases, even the surviving spouses and other beneficiaries have equally failed to access the pensions of their beloved ones who were principal pensioners.
Therefore, retirement from employment is a dreaded phase of life because of the poverty people quickly slide into while chasing after their pension packages.
Nonetheless, the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) has positioned itself to change this gloomy story so that retirees could receive their benefits on time and lead normal and happier lives.
The core business of NAPSA is to provide income security through payment of benefits to all workers who contribute to the authority when they reach retirement age and their beneficiaries in an event of the death of a principal member.
At the just-ended Agriculture and Commercial Show (ACS), NAPSA head-corporate affairs Cephas Sinyangwe said the authority is living up to its mandate of providing sustainable income to retirees and other categories of pension beneficiaries.
On a monthly basis, Mr Sinyangwe says NAPSA is paying out K84million in different classes of benefits to about 14, 500 retirees from across the country.
He says NAPSA’s investment base is getting stronger and now solidly standing at K25billion investment portfolio spread across various economic sectors such as real estate, road infrastructure developments as well as energy.
NAPSA’s diversification programme in energy will see the setting up of a 40megawatts solar plant.
The project is currently undergoing feasibility studies at its location on Twin Palm Road next to the Zambia Air Force base in Lusaka.
This planned investment into energy, whose cost is yet to be established, follows the revision of investment guidelines by the authority, allowing it to invest in projects such as energy and roads.
Already, NAPSA has committed K2.1billion to the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) for the rehabilitation and upgrading of roads on the Copperbelt.
It is this strong investment drive, according to Mr Sinyangwe, that has helped the authority to be efficient in service delivery towards retirees and other beneficiaries.
“The reason we exist as an institution is to provide sustainable income replacement. We are mandated to provide that continuity in terms of income beyond retirement,” he said in an interview.
Apart from paying retirees, Mr Sinyangwe says even in an event of death of a principal member, the authority provides income replacement to the surviving spouse or other beneficiaries.
Other concerns NAPSA is ably addressing by providing sustainable income regards the incapacitation of an employee due to injury, physical or mental disability.
“We are showcasing various products that we provide to the public, people can come and check their details, their statements, have their cards printed. We have moved from paper-based to online operations which are environmentally friendly,” he says.
The theme for the just-ended 92nd ACS, ‘Sustainable Economic Empowerment’, presented a key concern for Zambia, according to NAPSA.
In interpreting the theme, Mr Sinyangwe said the desire for sustainable economic empowerment is significant for the country’s economic growth and development.
He says in order to achieve this desire, there is need to have initiatives and activities aimed at uplifting the social and economic well-being of the people.
According to Mr Sinyangwe, this should be done whilst safeguarding resources and the environment for the current and future generations.
“Through various investment activities, the authority is sustainably empowering the nation and securing the people’s future,” he says.
My Sinyangwe says the subject of sustainable economic empowerment resonates well with the ambition NAPSA has demonstrated since coming into being about two decades ago.
NAPSA was established by an Act of Parliament; the National Pension Scheme (NPS) Act number 40 of 1996, but it only became operational on February 1, 2000.
This followed the closure of the then Zambia National Provident Fund (ZNPF), which had been in existence since 1966.
The transformation meant that all assets and liabilities of ZNPF were now vested in NAPSA, whose formation was also in response to the changing labour market needs.
Mr Sinyangwe says the assets of the authority are invested in full compliance with the requirements of any other relevant statutory and regulatory body such as the NPS Act number 40 of 1996 of the Laws of Zambia.
Among the statutory institutions that NAPSA’s investments operate in compliance with are the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) and the Pensions and Insurance Authority (PIA).
He says the investment purposes are to provide for benefits of members through investment recognition of both short-term and long-term objectives.
NAPSA’s investment objectives include capital preservation, security of the assets, and maximisation of investment returns consistent with the acceptable levels of risk, liquidity considerations, risk diversification and appropriate asset to liability matching.
Mr Sinyangwe says outstanding investments which are NAPSA subsidiaries with 100 per cent shareholding include the Levy Business Park Hotel, trading as Stay Easy.
NAPSA also constructed the Levy Business Park, a development mix comprising a hotel, a modern shopping mall, office complex and parking space and the Edgar Chagwa Lungu Mall in Kitwe.
Society House Development Company Limited is another subsidiary for NAPSA which includes retail, office space, fee-paying car park and a hotel suitably located at Society Business Park right in the heart of Lusaka’s central business district.
Mr Sinyangwe says the authority has invested into the rehabilitation of the Ndola-Kitwe dual carriageway, Kitwe-Chingola dual carriageway and the Chingola-Solwezi single carriageway.
In real estate, NAPSA has constructed 438 housing units of low, medium, and high-cost houses at the Kalulushi Housing Complex on the Copperbelt.
Other housing projects for NAPSA include Lusaka’s North Gate Housing Complex with 316 medium-cost houses, Nyumba Yanga Housing Complex, which has 314 single housing units of low, medium and high cost, including 60 units of high cost flats.
In Lusaka’s Ibex Hill Gardens is another housing investment which is a mixed-used development comprising 14 executive flats and commercial complex with offices and a swimming pool.
With these assets, NAPSA is confident of making the lives of pensioners easier.
FRANCIS LUNGU, Lusaka