OVER at the Social Security System (SSS), the management headed by former bank executive Emilio de Quiroz, Jr. has announced that by January next year (2014) they will be raising premiums to enable the private employees’ social welfare fund to extend its useful life from 2039 to about 2042. Management said this is necessary because SSS has trillions of pesos worth of liabilities it has to cover which will not be possible with its current fund generation.
“Liabilities,” as we all know, are things that have to be paid for, the bulk of which is debt (UTANG).
This makes sense, because many things happen over the years including inflation, the increase of the cost of money, depleting natural resources which makes basic stuff more expensive… and it also makes sense since their goal is to increase member benefits like the amount for pensions which also have to meet the challenges of increased costs and prices.
In the same breath Mr. De Quiroz announced the granting of and annual bonus for management– board members included – and, we assume, all or most of the SSS employees. Basically, De Quiroz says that it is for a job well done in 2012.
Now the bonus to SSS employees for 2012 amounts to P276 million while the eight board members including De Quiroz get about P10 million – roughly a tad over P1 million each.
Sure, some employees may deserve the bonus their getting. After all I’m sure they all need to be positively reinforced for the tough job they’re doing. I will not judge these people because I don’t know them or what they exactly do or achieve.
I will assume that they have worked over and beyond the call of their duty, which is what bonuses are for. You get a salary for doing your job, and you get a bonus for doing more which should have resulted in better company performance – in this case, profit for the pension fund… a lot of bonus worthy profit.
Neither will I judge top management, the board of directors and even Mr. De Quiroz himself. For all I know they had spent all those sleepless nights in deep study of the facts and figures that the SSS generates and those stressful meetings (for which they each get a per diem of P40,000 for each of the two monthly meetings) locked in contentious debate for the proper formulation of policy.
This includes coming up with the rationale that these P10 million and P276 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what has to be covered by the contribution increases starting next year.
I do have an issue with their sensitivity to member perception.
When any of us fail to pay a debt – credit card, housing loan, car loan – first thing auditors look at is what expenses we have to get rid of to pay the debt. Next, what assets or things do we have in our possession do we need to get rid of or sell to add to the funds needed to pay the debt.
In other words your standing depends on how they perceive you handle money. No matter how much you tell them that you’ll pay them back, no matter how credible and trustworthy you character references say you are, nothing proves your worth better than showing that you put settling your obligations first. Be it just one peso or a million, showing your priorities reveal your character and sincerity.
Now in the case of SSS, these management decisions are seen in the light of retirees not being able to make ends meet, high costs of food, medicines, clothing and other basics, long queues and waiting time to be served and even impatient, grumpy SSS employees behind the counter and even slow or erratic internet access to the website.
SSS management’s moves are seen as – to say the least – insensitive to the millions of private sector employees who contribute to and are the real owners of the fund.
While these board members are appointed by the President, it would also be good to note that these appointments were made by the power vested in him by the citizenry, many of whom are the members of SSS.
And that’s why these very same members – who may or may not have a loaded gun on their hands (I pray it isn’t the latter) – are pissed.