Pension fund responds to early retirement concerns

POSTED: 11/29/12 2:32 PM

St. Maarten – APS is busy rounding off information sessions for active participants, after the sessions were launched in September. APS said that it is pleased with the attendance of active participants at the informative sessions being held by representatives of the general pension fund administrator.

Organizations for whom sessions have been organized thus far are the Fire Department, Ambulance Department, Bureau Telecommunications and Post, SVOBE (foundation for secondary education), SZV and government ministries of Finance, Health and Labor Affairs (VSA), Economic Affairs (TEZVT) and VROMI.

APS continues with the organizing of the sessions for other entities with employees who participate in the pension fund which was formerly administered by APNA and is now administered by APS. During the sessions, APS provides as much information as possible regarding the APS organization. Participants are also given an outline of how APS was established as a new pension fund when St. Maarten attained its new status of a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Participants are making use of the opportunity to ask questions and gather the facts about their pension plans. APS welcomes this type of interaction since it provides the organization an opportunity to offer first-hand information and dismiss misconceptions that may have grown over time.

A concern is whether participants in the fund who have worked their entire lives for an employer on St. Maarten can qualify for early retirement (VUT). Participants are entitled to VUT once they have met (at minimum) the criteria of being in service before or on January 1, 1996 or having been in service more than 20 years. Of these years in service, at least 5 would have been at the central government level. In any case, further legal clarification is still being sought on the 5 year requirement.

“Persons would like to know what their rights are. We are here for our participants; so every concern or question they have on their mind, are valid ones”, says APS director Kendra Arnell.

Of particular interest seems to be APS’ asset management activities. In order to grow the pension fund’s capital and to ensure pension benefits payment in the future, APS invests according to a prudent investment policy.

“Contrary to what many may think, not all of our funds are invested abroad.  APS realizes the importance of investing on St. Maarten and embraces viable and lucrative opportunities to do so. At the end of the day it is about ensuring pension benefits to those who are entitled. This will always be first and foremost in the fund’s vision” says Arnell.

Recognizing that APS may be dealing with somewhat outdated legislation, that leaves room for modernization of St. Maarten’s  pension system, questions on whether a common law spouse can be acknowledged, must be answered in the negative. This is also the case for same sex marriages, the agency notes.

“Our current pension legislation does not allow for this. There are other areas where pension systems have modernized over the years. As an example, we can mention that in some countries participants can opt to retire at an earlier age while accepting a lower pension amount than they would normally receive”, explains the APS director.

The development of a draft legislation to increase the amount to be paid out in AOV and the eligible age to collect AOV at 62 years, has also been anticipated by participants. The main question being asked is whether the pensionable age in the APS pension fund will also go up. “This is understandable. Thirty plus years is a long time to be working. An extension of the pensionable age implies additional years of working. It should be clear that the AOV is separate from the APS pension that participants are entitled to. The pensionable age for collection of APS pension benefits is still legally bound to 60 years”, states Arnell.

According to the APS director “no advice for a change in the pensionable age has been submitted to date“.

The general pension fund administrator is additionally planning information sessions for participants who are already receiving pension benefits and for those who will soon be receiving pension benefits.

Participants needing specific information on their individual situation are reminded that they can always make an appointment to visit the office of APS at the Yogesh Building in Cul de Sac.

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