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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Will MPs bail out struggling SSRA?

4th April 2012
Editorial Cartoon

Discussion of efforts to help social security schemes in Africa and globally grow is incomplete without mention of the support extended by agencies like ILO and OECD, the latter an international organisation helping governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges of globalisation.

These have close working links with the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and its East and Central African “counterpart” (ECASSA) as well as the social security schemes to be found in individual member countries including Tanzania.

The thrust of the efforts of these international institutions is on modernising the operations, boosting and diversifying the coverage and generally enhancing the efficiency of social security schemes.

ILO, OECD, ISSA, etc., all underscore the need for the schemes to increase coverage and deliver benefits that meet the needs of the population. That essentially means that the schemes must contribute to efforts to achieve global goals on poverty reduction, gender equality and improvement of public health.

The major challenge in many countries was once how devise and develop effective pro-poor social security systems amidst limited resources and poor infrastructure. But scores of developing countries, among them Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa, have since shown that political will and public support can work wonders.

The situation in Tanzania is neither hopeless nor that encouraging, if the challenges the Social Security Regulatory Authority is busy grappling with are anything to go by.

This is primarily because most result from deficiencies in the law under which the agency was established, which SSRA Director General Irene Isaka and the men and women she leads are dying to see Parliament subject to appropriate review.

The DG is modest enough to admit that they are not excellently positioned, particularly with respect to funding, and would appreciate seeing the government come to their help at least by allowing them to charge social security schemes some form of statutory levy for services rendered.

As reported in yesterday’s issue of this paper, this would be along the lines of fees the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Ewura) and Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) charge the companies or corporations they offer services.

The OECD happily notes that governments and development partners alike have made important policy commitments to the priority of social protection and social security in Africa.

Equally importantly, ILO is keen to see “a powerful African vision of social security and its important role in poverty alleviation, economic development and the achievement of the MDGs taking its rightful place in the global debate”.

For its part, ISSA wants to see social security institutions improve their governance systems, administrative efficiency and service quality “as a gauge of confidence in their essential role in the future extension of coverage”.

But this will remain a very tall for emerging players like SSRA that have yet to stand on their own feet financially, though DG Isaka finds consolation in the fact that the social security schemes whose operations they are supposed to regulate are “generally understanding, cooperative and supportive”.

It remains to be seen whether MPs will so handle the planned review of the legislation guiding SSRA’s operations as to help bail out the budding authority.

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