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Stakeholders' Workshop on the Proposed South Asian Pension Forum
Welcome Remarks by Sultan H. Rahman, SARD Director General, ADB Headquarters, Manila, Philippines
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I am very pleased to welcome you to this Stakeholders' Workshop on the Proposed South Asia Pension Forum. Calling attention to the need for pension reform is imperative because old age poverty is a silent crisis. Every year, ten million South Asians join the ranks of the elderly.
Astoundingly, approximately ninety percent of them are not covered by any formal social security scheme. They rely on their savings and their families to provide for them in their old age. If these informal safety nets should fail, they have no alternate recourse.
Even the small percentage who are members of pension plans, find that their needs are ill–met due to shifting demographics, the gap between income and expenditure needs, and the outdated design of programmes.
In recent years, each country in the region has reviewed its policies and instituted reforms within the constraints of its own economy and unique conditions. The ideal pension policy is inclusive, equitable, sustainable, and will provide broad–based social protection for the elderly. Achieving this herculean feat will necessitate sustained effort, scalable and innovative designs, and a widespread public information campaign.
Though important and urgent, this issue has not received the attention it deserves. For this reason, ADB is proposing the creation of a South Asia Pension Forum which would focus available resources on and continually raise awareness for this neglected concern. Such a forum would provide opportunities to learn from the experiences of other countries and to fully examine the various complexities that would affect design and implementation. Creating a single platform also permits economy of effort and encourages greater regional cooperation.
We at the ADB consider pensions an important tool in our efforts to fight poverty in the region. Supporting social security schemes is part of developing social safety nets and a major contribution towards addressing poverty alleviation. In particular, the South Asian Regional Department is very committed to strengthening financial inclusion in our member countries. What you discuss and decide during these next two days has the potential to improve lives in the South Asian region in far–reaching ways. I thank you for coming to this meeting, lending your expertise and showing your commitment to the cause.