THE National Social Security Authority (NSSA) on Wednesday started paying pensioners in foreign currency.
NSSA General Manager James Matiza this week said anyone who retired on Wednesday this week would be entitled to a minimum pension of US$25 per month.
â€œWith effect from April 1, pensions would be paid in United States dollars. The amount will be US$25,â€ said Matiza.
In February NSSA collected close to US$600 000. Funeral benefits are said to be pegged at US$200.
Matiza said there had been a reduction in pension contributors from as high as two million to just under a million.
He said NSSA was currently working with 500 000 people and it was difficult to access the levels of contributions.
Matiza attributed this to companies not paying workers salaries, but allowances which were not deductible, citing government as the chief culprit.
â€œNSSA began receiving contributions in foreign currency in February and for the next three months we will be accessing the levels of inflows,â€ Matiza said.
The payment of pensions in foreign currency would prompt people to re-start cashing in as scores of pensioners had long stopped claim pensions in Zimbabwe dollars.
It had become expensive to claim pensions as transport costs were often more than what the pensioner received.
Matiza said Zimbabweansâ€™ contributions were still below the regional average despite an 8% increase in January.
â€œEven at 8% Zimbabwe still has one of the lowest contribution rates in the region and in Africa as a whole with Sudan having the highest contribution rate of 23%,â€ said Matiza.
Workers contribute 4% of their basic salary towards the NSSA pension scheme, with employers paying a similar amount.
NSSA statistics indicate that as of December last year 142 835 people benefited from pension payouts and allowances, with the bulk being surviving pensioners at 63 045, childrenâ€™s allowances 36 865, retirement pension, 33 105 and invalidity pension at 9 820.
Meanwhile, NSSA said it was in the process of reviving the proposed national health insurance scheme for all workers in what is seen as a desperate attempt to help it fund the collapsing health sector.
Matiza said the scheme could be operational during the second quarter of 2010.
The insurance scheme, covering all categories of workers, is aimed at boosting governmentâ€™s revenues which have been depleted by company closures, high unemployment rate and high inflation.
â€œContribution to the scheme is compulsory whether one uses government health facilities or not,â€ he said.
BY NQOBILE BHEBHE