Kuwait's social security department, which operates one of the world's most lucrative pension systems, warned Wednesday it will go bankrupt unless the emirate's retirement laws are reformed rapidly.
The department currently has an actuarial deficit of 3.9 billion dinars ($12.7 billion), which is expected to rise to 12.7 billion dinars ($41.3 billion) by 2015, the department's head, Fahad al-Rajaan, told Al-Qabas newspaper.
Rajaan warned that if the retirement laws were not reformed soon, the Public Institution for Social Security would go bankrupt by 2026.
Kuwaiti male government employees can currently retire at the age of 45 and claim almost 100 percent of their last drawn salary.
Women in government jobs with children in Kuwait, however, have the right to retire after just 15 years of service regardless of age and still receive full benefits.
In addition, Kuwaiti employees working in dangerous jobs can retire with full benefits after completing 20 years of service.
The Institution has already presented a bill calling to increase the retirement age for women and employees in dangerous jobs to 45 years, regardless of the period spent in service.
The bill requires the endorsement of the oil-rich emirate's cabinet and 50-member parliament, where it is certain to face stiff opposition from a strong Islamist and tribal coalition in favor of women staying at home.
This is just one of the many cradle-to-grave welfare perks offered to all Kuwaiti citizens, who make up only a third of the 2.2-million population.
They also pay no income tax, enjoy free medical care and education, have guaranteed employment, and receive heavily subsidized housing and low-priced utilities and fuel.
And almost 93 percent of the Kuwaiti workforce of 221,000 have taken up their constitutional right to work in the state sector, recent reports showed.
Even though the private sector accounts for almost 80 percent of the total workforce, it is dominated by expatriates, and analysts say that the short working hours and high salaries demanded by Kuwaitis rule them out of the market.
The Institution boasted 1.024 billion dinars ($3.33 billion) in returns over its investments in the last three fiscal years, with last year making a record 401.8 million dinars ($1.3 billion), Rajaan added. – (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)