Poland places further restrictions on second-pillar pension funds

first_imgThe Polish government has finally published the draft bill radically changing the second-pillar pension system.The bill, issued late on 10 October, puts in place essentially all the proposals announced in September, alongside punitive restrictions on advertising by the second-pillar funds (OFEs) and some proposed changes to the third pillar.The bill is now out for a 30-day public consultation.Its publication marks a U-turn from 1999, when the establishment of the mandatory second pillar was seen as a means of providing higher retirement income while eventually reducing the pension and public deficit, to a position where the system has ostensibly done the opposite. The draft bill states that the costs associated with the OFEs had, according to the Finance Ministry, ballooned to PLN279.4bn (€66.7bn) by the end of 2012.This was equivalent to 17.5% of GDP and more than 30% of the country’s public debt.The Finance Ministry has estimated that the changes will in 2014 reduce the public debt by 8.4% of GDP according to national accounting standards and by 9.2% according to EU methodology.As expected, the first pillar Polish Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) will handle the OFE retirement payouts, with the accumulated funds transferred incrementally 10 years before retirement.The controversial investment changes are also in place.All Polish sovereign and state guaranteed bond holdings, including central bank issues, will be transferred from the OFEs on 3 February 2014.The law actually stipulates 51.5% of portfolio value on 3 September 2013 – the day before the government officially announced the changes – so the funds that cannot satisfy this quota with state bonds will have to make up the difference with other non-equity assets such as cash and bank deposits, road and municipal bonds.Earlier, the Polish Chamber of Pension Funds (IGTE), which has disputed the legality of both the transfer of assets to ZUS before retirement and the removal of government securities, sought opinion from the European Commission.Małgorzata Rusewicz, IGTE acting president, told IPE: “We still emphasise that proposed changes raise serious legal doubts.“In accordance with legal regulations valid in Poland, the OFEs have the right to invest the assets of their members until the insured retire.“Therefore, the transfer of assets from the OFE to ZUS, even if it concerns only a part of them, as in the case of bonds, constitutes appropriation of the assets that are the property of the OFE and its members by a public institution without compensation.“The assets accumulated on behalf of the insured will cease to be private property – they will become public property and will be consumed by the state.”In future, the OFEs will be banned from investing in any state securities, not just Polish ones, as well as state-guaranteed loans, deposits and related instruments.  As part of what the government has consistently called “real economy” investment, they will be allowed to invest in Polish road and other infrastructure bonds, corporate and municipal issues.As of 4 February 2014, the OFEs will have to invest a minimum 75% in equity, irrespective of their members’ age and risk appetite.“Forcing a pension fund to invest a minimum 75% exclusively in shares will significantly increase the risk of such transactions and make it impossible to manage in a manner beneficial for the insured,” said Rusewicz.“It will make it impossible to protect the real value of those assets in periods of a slump in the economy. Until now, such solution has never been used in pension funds anywhere.”Other investment restrictions will be lifted as of 1 July, including the abolition of the minimum investment return benchmark.The foreign investment cap of 5% will be raised to 10%, then 20% in 2015 and 30% in 2016.The OFEs will be able to lend stock, a practice previously prohibited, while a separate law will specify in what circumstance they will be able to use derivatives, also banned up till now.Contribution fees will be halved, to 1.75% for the OFEs and 0.4% for ZUS, and the contributions to the OFEs capped at 2.92% of gross wages.The hitherto mandatory system becomes voluntary.New entrants to the labour market and existing OFE members will have a three-month window from 1 April to declare their intention to remain in the second pillar or have future contributions transferred to ZUS.They can make this choice in person, by post or online.Those who do not will by default have their future contributions moved to ZUS.Workers will be able to change their decision, with the April-June window open in the first instance after two years, then every four years.This is effectively the only concession the government has made since its proposals were announced in September.Previously, the freedom to change one’s mind was to be restricted to those workers who had opted to remain in the second pillar.OFE members will be able to change their fund every three months, although it is not clear how they will make their decision, as the government also dropped a bombshell by making the publication and distribution of OFE advertising a criminal offence subject to a penalty of PLN1m or up to two years in prison.“We are surprised with additional change, according to which there will be no possibility to advertise OFEs in any way,” said Rusewicz.  “We honestly don’t know at the moment how to interpret these rules. We don’t know, for example, if the IGTE would be able to organise any informational campaign regarding OFEs.“It would be a phenomenon for the whole EU if such a rule would be adopted by the Polish Parliament.”The draft also covers changes in the third-pillar IKZE retirement accounts introduced in 2011 to improve the take-up, including increasing the limit on tax-free contributions and reducing the tax on payouts to 10%.last_img read more

US Coach Jill Ellis Focused On Title After Reaching Women’s World Cup Final

first_imgLyon: US women’s football national team head coach Jill Ellis has insisted that winning the title is her team’s only goal at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.On Tuesday, Ellis’s side reached their third straight World Cup final after overcoming England 2-1 in the semifinals.”We’re here for one thing, and that’s to win the trophy,” Ellis said at a press conference.”Everything we talk about and focus on is about that. When you are the premier team in the world, you’re always going to have noise and external stuff. But we have a unique way of making sure that everything is about the game plan and preparation. They are professionals and that’s the best way to sum it up,” she added.”We’ve had fewer days of rest than probably anyone, and the hardest route to a final that a team has maybe ever taken. But we found a way, and I attribute that to their mental strength.”The US will face the winner of the other semifinal between the Netherlands and Sweden, and Ellis backed her players to perform regardless of the opponent.”I don’t know who I will play, and I don’t care who I want to play,” Ellis smiled. She continued: “The Netherlands have had a great tournament with tremendous performances. We’ve seen Sweden in the group stage, and know how good they are. It’s going to be an epic match tomorrow.”Ellis attributed her team’s success to their mentality and mindset.”The players are ready to prepare for the moment. They are incredibly tight. That’s also the strength of the team to get things done collectively,” she pointed out.”I felt like England had a great game,” said Alex Morgan, player of the match against England. “Alyssa Naeher came out huge for us on the penalty save. This team has had so much thrown at us. We haven’t had an easy route to the final.””I saw all my teammates being so emotional, and I know it means so much to us. We’ve put so much into this journey together,” she added. IANS Also Read: US Beat France To Enter Women’s World Cup Semislast_img read more

A Trojan Family space, for better or worse

first_imgThis article is part of the Daily Trojan‘s supplement issue, “If you build it, will they come?” This semester’s supplement focused on the impact of the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center and University Gateway apartment complex, both of which will open this fall.USC’s reputation and the quality of its student body have made unparalleled strides in the last 15 years — and the campus social scene could finally be ready to catch up.Photo courtesy of Joel ZinkWhen the Ronald Tutor Campus Center opens its doors in August, it will represent the first serious attempt to change a culture whose social heart is often on The Row or at the Coliseum, but rarely on campus. Administrators and students are hoping the building will have a major impact on USC’s social scene, creating a permanent residential atmosphere on campus for the first time.But the building is not targeted exclusively at students, and the allocation of the campus center’s space, along with the hours its rooms and restaurants will be open, leave questions about whether it can meet administrator’s lofty goals.“A residential community is not just beds and pillows,” said Patrick Bailey, the Student Affairs administrator charged with overseeing the new building. “The campus center is one of the biggest first steps the university is making in really welcoming students to stay on campus after hours [and] on the weekends.”Bailey and others involved in the project hope the new building will draw students to campus even when they don’t have class. The building will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week. A new Traditions bar with seating and televisions is tucked into the basement next to a large performance venue, Tommy’s Place, which also has pool tables.“To change a culture, it takes four years,” Bailey said. “You have to go through each class.”In a way, the campus center represents the midway point of USC’s long transition from a commuter school to a true residential university. If the last decade was marked by a dramatic change in the student population — SAT scores that rival Stanford’s, students who hail from across the country and world, an unprecedented ascension in the U.S. News & World Report rankings — the next decade will be shaped by physical changes.The massive University Gateway apartments and campus center buildings will open in the fall. USC’s Master Plan, the school’s road map for expansion north of Jefferson Boulevard over the next 30 years, calls for razing the University Village, Cardinal Gardens and Century; building new housing and retail space; and turning Jefferson into a pedestrian walkway. And by next year, a new light rail along Exposition Boulevard should be operating.Of all these physical changes, the campus center will have the quickest and most dramatic impact on student life. But unlike campus centers at other schools, the Ronald Tutor Campus Center was not designed solely for students.The campus center’s anchor is not a student lounge but is instead the Trojan Family Room, a meeting area that also serves as a showcase of Trojan memorabilia. Upscale furniture and a concierge booth greet alumni, current Trojans and prospective students, who can walk upstairs to the admissions office on the second floor.There is no movie theater — like in UC San Diego’s massive Price Center — and no bowling alley, like the one on the top of The George Washington University’s student center. There are several student lounges, but most are smaller rooms more conducive to studying than watching a football game.This will make it harder for the campus center to impact student life as much as administrators hope. But students say that just having a central place to hang out, relax, meet friends or study will be a huge boost for the campus experience.“[USC is] a college community, but it’s a college community with a lot of people living in apartments Downtown, living off campus and a lot of people who come to campus just for classes,” said John Legittino, who was an Undergraduate Student Government spokesperson in 2009 and graduated the same year.And although Jenny Novak, the incoming president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, said the center likely would “not be enough to draw me in on weekends,” she said it will give graduate students an easy, central meeting place on campus.The administrators in charge of the campus center acknowledge that it was never meant to be tailored entirely toward students. Faculty, incoming students, alumni and administrators all had little space to interact and mingle, and the campus center was designed to be an upgrade for all of these groups.Denzil Suite, associate vice president for Student Affairs, said this won’t come at a cost to students. The building is meant to be flexible. Suite highlighted the building’s 30 meeting rooms — some of which can hold hundreds of people — that student groups can reserve without paying a deposit.“If someone wants to have a small, intimate poetry reading, you can have that, and if you want to have a large fundraising dinner for your organization, you can do that, too,” he said.Indeed, the campus center’s success might hinge on whether students are tempted onto campus by the venue’s programming. Student Affairs has planned a slate of activities and events to keep those rooms busy.This fall, the Undergraduate Student Government, GPSS, Program Board and the University Residential Student Community will each host a Thursday evening event in Tommy’s Place once a month. “Friday Night Fix” will feature recurring performances by the Second City comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade. College band night and other concerts dot the venues’ calendars. And, during football games and other sporting events, the enormous projection screen in Tommy’s Place will extend for students to watch the action.Still, many parts of the campus center will close on the weekends. Traditions will sell food and stay open until 2 a.m., and Lemonade, a restaurant new to USC that has several locations in Los Angeles, will also have extended weekend hours. But the five restaurants in the center’s main food court — including Carl’s Jr., California Pizza Kitchen and Wahoo’s Fish Taco — will have hours similar to The Lot, where venues close at 7 or 8 p.m. and are closed on weekends (with the exception of Baja Fresh).Those hours could be extended depending on student demand, and some food court restaurants might eventually stay open on the weekend, said USC Hospitality Director Kris Klinger.“As students speak with their feet and their money, we will determine what will be open and when,” he said.Students aren’t the only ones excited about the campus center’s potential impact. President of the Faculty Alex Capron, a professor at the Gould School of Law and Keck School of Medicine, has made what he calls a “living university” road map his goal. The idea is to encourage interactions between faculty members and students outside the classroom, and Capron believes the campus center has the potential to be an intellectual hub.If students and professors take advantage of the campus center by holding meetings and socializing, Capron said, the center could become a natural gathering place and an incentive for faculty to live closer to campus.“[Those interactions] really ought to take place by people being together in an environment that fosters intellectual exchanges,” Capron said.When the building opens it will mark the first part of a broader plan to improve student life on campus. The recreational facilities need upgrading, Bailey acknowledged; so does the student health center, Suite said.But for now, Bailey thinks the new building’s impact could be immense.“The building is a game changer,” he said.last_img read more