On November 8th, IPI MENA Director Nejib Friji moderated a panel at the 5th Arab Pensions Conference, calling for the cooperation of the multilateral system in raising awareness to address the global pension crisis that threatens durable peace and sustainable development.
Organized by Fintech Robos, the 5th Arab Pensions Conference took place virtually under the overarching theme of “What Should the MENA Pension Systems Look Like for the Next 50 Years?” wherein Mr. Friji prompted the discussion of experts from different regions and sectors on the question of “how do we bring all, or the majority, of the region’s population under pension coverage?”
In his remarks opening the second session, Mr. Friji highlighted the changing socio-economic contexts, including those specific to the MENA region, which have compounded the pressures on pension payouts. Underscoring the “untapped potential” of expatriate workers in regards to pension scheme strategies, he emphasized how this endangers not only the social security of a significant portion of the region’s population in the long run, but social peace too.
Following the same line of thought, panelists added their insight in answers to questions posed by Mr. Friji as well as the audience amid a live interactive poll. It was resonated among the speakers, that regulations and products in the formal system needed to be reformed and designed to capture those who are currently excluded. This would entail equitable contributions and therefore the safeguarding of individuals’ interests and finances in the long term.
Drawing on her experience of working with numerous countries, Ms. Stephanie Payet, Private Pensions Analyst at Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), stressed the need to rebuild the trust of the younger generations in their pension systems. She advocated for the application of behavioral insights when considering regulations and the planning of new products for savings, while ensuring diversified systems for retirement.
On the same note, Mr. Mohamed Seghire, Chief Executive Financial Officer, AXA Green Crescent Insurance Company P.J.S.C, acknowledged the cultural nuances that exist in the MENA region between generations, which continue to influence reluctance towards savings for retirement. He advised integrating financial education to students and young professionals as a way to raise awareness on the incentives to make savings for your retirement.
Mr. Will Sandbrook, Executive Director of NEST Insight Unit at National Employment Savings Trust (NEST), UK shared his extensive experience in addressing the issues in the British context. In his final summary, Mr. Sandbrook reiterated “enough money needs to go into the [pensions] system to make it work – the fact is that people need to start saving requires a push, not just encouragement.”
All the speakers gave recognition to how such events and platforms are encouraging steps in the wheel to solving the pension crises. Echoed in his closing remarks, Mr. Friji called on all participants; particularly government, private sector, and unions, to work together and create a pension strategy framework based on prudent foresight, population structures, and sound economic policies to address the pension crisis now, to secure durable peace and sustainable development in the future.