IRELAND - The Department of Finance in Ireland is to look at transferring the assets of non commercial semi-state pension funds to the National Treasury Management Agency.
The department declined to comment on the timing of such discussions, but said that it was part of its ongoing review of expenditure and what is needed to fund such schemes.
The department conducts regular reviews of public service pensions,which includes the semi-state funds such as the university schemes and other enterprise bodies in Ireland of the likes of the Irish Development Authority, Enterprise Ireland and the Shannon Development Authority.
This review does not cover the commercial semi-state enterprises such as partly privatised industry. A department of finance spokesman said that there were significant technical issues to consider in the context of a transfer of assets in terms of trust law.
A high profile pensions lawyer in Ireland commented: “The state, if it wants, can pass various legislation and get this done, but as a general rule, trustees of those schemes wouldn't transfer assets until they are transferring liabilities and if they are transferring liabilities, they would transfer these liabilities, as a general rule, to another approved pension scheme.”
But a transfer of liabilities is not on the cards, saidthe department of finance spokesman.
A source of ongoing concern for the government, the departmentregularly looks at the solvency of these funds, but does not act as the guarantor.
The department spokesman added: “There are significant issues to beconsidered in the context of whether resources of the Exchequer also should be used to fund, or part fund such pensions funds.
These are complex issues, however, no decision has been made to provide funding at this stage and any such proposal would require government approval.”
Richard Bruton TD, deputy leader and spokesperson for finance, foropposition party Fine Gael, said: “It would seem to mean that, as of now, the state has not indicated that it accepts that it hasliabilities for these pension deficits and that would be the firstchange in policy because the Minister for Finance has consistently been saying that he can’t do that.”
Public sector pensions, which include the non commercial semi-states now account for 8.9% of the total Exchequer pay bill, up from 8.6% in 1999. Overall, the pension bill has increased from e666m in 1999 to e1,241m in 2004 representing an 86% increase over the period.
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