The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has announced the intention to roll out an electronic payment scheme which will allow people to pay their contributions, using mobile money or bank applications without any electronic levy charges.
The history of social security in the country traces various arrangements from colonial time through independence till 1965 when a national social security scheme was established under the Social Security Act, 1965 (Act 279), and since then, there have been various reforms.
The Social Security Scheme of 1965, for example, was a Provident Fund (PF) Scheme under which lump sums were paid to qualified members and though it was planned to run as such for five years, up to 1970, it stayed in place until the late 1980s when the issue of true pension scheme was seriously taken up.
PNDC Law 247 of 1991 converted the PF scheme into a true pension scheme.
Today, the country operates pension under the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766) whose new contribution rates commenced in January 2010.
This too has been reformed by the National Pensions (Amendment) Act, 2014 (Act 883) to, among other changes or additions, reduce the age for exemption from the First Tier Scheme and to provide for related matters.
It is worthy of note that the implementation of Act 766 in 2010 introduced a New Business Process (NBP) for the Trust to streamline contribution collection, data processing and general operational activities.
The announcement by SSNITto roll out an electronic payment scheme can, therefore, be said to fall under the NBP, which means it is backed by law.
In this country today, the people want to run away from electronic financial transactions because of the introduction of E-Levy that puts charges on such transactions.
The charges means deductions from amounts meant for people.
Looking at the low earnings by majority of workers, especially some informal workers who have chosen to join the SSNIT, any arrangement that would reduce such incomes would vehemently be resisted.
In this vein, the arrangement by SSNIT is welcome.
It will also reduce the hassle of visiting the SSNIT office amid traffic congestions in urban areas, which are mostly where the offices are located, not to mention the time a contributor would have to spend at the office.
With the informal-sector membership drive the SSNIT has embarked upon, it is likely that a good number of informal workers, particularly farmers and petty traders, would join the scheme but their interest can wane if they have to pay considerable amounts in fares to go to the SSNIT office to pay their contributions.
That would also discourage others from joining the scheme in spite of the benefits that would accrue to them in the end.
Let SSNIT also stay true to its plans to implement policies to make registration easier for individuals interested in being added to the scheme.
Since the SSNIT envisages reducing or alleviating poverty-induced worries associated with old age and incapacitation, all its efforts must be geared towards just that by attracting more people onto the scheme with unavoidable products and services.
After all, the pension scheme is meant to alleviate poverty in old age and when a contributor becomes incapacitated before attaining the retirement age, which is good enough reason to attract membership under some persuasive conditions.
And SSNIT says it has become necessary to extend coverage to informal sector workers not only to increase the active membership and contributor base of the scheme, but also to ensure that every worker in Ghana enjoyed social protection.