July 13, 2008

Labour minister announces 31-percent pension increase

Labour Minister Helena Taipo has announced a 31 per cent increase in the minimum pension paid by the National Social Security Institute (INSS). The percentage increase may sound large - but in absolute terms the pension rises only from 987 to 1,284 meticais a month. At current exchange rate, that means the pension is still worth just 53 US dollars a month. The increase is backdated to 1 April.

Taipo announced the increase at the end of a two day meeting of her Ministry's Coordinating Council. Clearly the scandal-ridden INSS was a major talking point at the meeting. A commission of inquiry appointed by Taipo had discovered, earlier in the year, that around eight million dollars had been stolen from the INSS between 2002 and 2008. The INSS has not published its accounts since 2004, and the Coordinating Council backed up Taipo's demand that the missing accounts be published as soon as possible. The Council also decided to launch an international tender to select a reputable company to computerize the INSS records. This was the only way to guarantee "credibility and transparency" said Taipo. One of the serious complaints against the former INSS management was that it had illegally hired a company called MOZ IT for the computerisation, and paid it large sums in advance for doing next to nothing.

As for the controversial issue of the recruitment of foreign workers, the meeting decided to decentralize the matter. In principle, a quota system should be operating, whereby companies can recruit a limited number of foreign workers without seeking government authorisation. Small companies, employing up to ten people, can have foreigners accounting for ten per cent of their work force (i.e. one worker). Medium size companies, employing between 10 and 100 workers have a quota of eight per cent foreign labour. For large companies, employed over 100 workers, the quota is five per cent. Companies are supposed simply to notify the Ministry of these foreign workers, and only request authorization if they wish to go above the quota. The Council decided that the control over these quotas will be handled not by the central ministry structures, but by the provincial labour directorates. The Ministry itself will only be involved in deciding on requests to recruit extra foreign workers.

For the first time, said Taipo, the Coordinating Council "recognized that we have problems that must be dealt with urgently" She had warned the Council on the first day of the meeting that "hiding our failings is not the best strategy, This helps nothing and the problems just accumulate". The Council took the unusual step of passing a resolution that amounted to a vote of confidence in the Minister, in particular urging Taipo to continue her work of cleaning up the INSS "so that we can soon regain the confidence and respect of the employers and the workers". (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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