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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blowing hard earned money on trucks

PAPUA NEW GUINEA's second largest super fund Nambawan Super, a hugely different superannuation fund from that of some years back, when board members and management were given to a bit of extravagance, made another milestone this past financial year.

It was overheard at the gathering to announce the profit and crediting of a 10 per cent interest to members, that one past year the superfund board travelled abroad to hold a meeting in time for a major sporting event there.  And they travelled with spouses too!

All that has now gone and with the reforms it adopted, the super fund is now open to non-public servant contributors as well.

A happy board chairman Sir Nagora Bogan in the company of some of his members and management, announced on Wednesday that the fund again posted a profit for the 2009 financial year.  The fund could have increased individual members' interest to something higher than the 10 per cent announced but prudence ruled that some of the windfall be held in reserves for that rainy day.

Over 100,000 Papua New Guineans who are contributing members of the fund will have received the news with jubilation.  Most of these members, we might add, are low to medium level income earners who might not have the ability or the resolve to save.

Nambawan Super therefore is their brightest hope for any saving for retirement or future enterprise when their formal employment ceases.

But a sad fact is that lately some members upon retirement have taken their money saved up for them during their years of toil only to blow it up in failed investments or on lifestyles unknown to them in their working years.

For instance, in one particular part of the country a number of loyal teachers who ended their careers claimed their superannuation funds and for some strange reason all decided to purchase PMV trucks.

Names like Las Potnait and Chalk Dust, emblazoned on the front of these trucks make no secret about who the owners are and how they were acquired.

But all have a common sorry ending.  In two to three years maximum, the trucks show signs of wear and tear and are grounded sooner than the owners would have expected.  The reason:  these former teachers, who have dedicated all their time and skills to mentor youngsters have acquired no business management skills along the way.

To them the pride and prestige of owning and operating a brand new truck for close to K100,000 in hard cash is an achievement in itself.  With no know-how or drive to attain profitability and sustainability, the ex-teacher-cum entrepreneur ends up with the same old sad situation like those before him.  Trucks break down and there is little money left for maintenance or to acquire replacements. Large amounts are owed to workshops and other service providers and the PMV operator is stuck in a tight corner, lamenting why he had chosen the line of business in the first place.

Nambawan Super provides another service called retirement savings which is a portion of members' savings which can be withdrawn as a periodic pension payment.

While the super fund counsels its members to use this product, it could also explore avenues to provide business and investment advice as well for those who might need it.

In makes no sense if one who had been a loyal worker turns out to be the proverbial prodigal son. If he cares to listen, spare him the ignorance and misery!

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