Abu Dhabi: Most of the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who joined a pension scheme introduced by the Indian Government are from the UAE, according to an Indian official.
The National Pension System (NPS), which is administered and regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), was opened to NRIs in November 2015 but it became popular only by early 2016. The authority started a facility to open accounts online in June, 2016. “The scheme offering a monthly pension after retirement is one of the lowest-cost pension schemes in the world,” Hemant Contractor, Chairman of PFRDA, told Gulf News in a telephone interview from New Delhi on Monday.
“Over 3,000 NRIs have joined the scheme so far and most of them are from the UAE,” he said. The highest number of the remaining NRI subscribers are also from other Gulf nations, he said
“It is highly beneficial for them as they [NRIs in the Gulf] don’t have any mandatory social security benefit,” the chairman said.
The facility to open accounts online attracts more NRIs. “We see 7 or 8 NRIs opening accounts every day. At least three of them do it online,” he said.
The number of enrolment is very low, given the size of Indian population in the Gulf. An estimated 2.8 million Indians live in the UAE alone.
The official attributed it to low awareness among NRIs about the scheme and said they were taking various measures to promote it.
“We have appointed a retirement advisor [IBMC, a Dubai-based financial consultancy] for NRIs in the UAE. They will raise awareness about the scheme in the community, in coordination with other community organisations,” Contractor said.
He said the authority would appoint more such advisors to promote the scheme among NRIs in the Gulf. “Around three other firms in the UAE have expressed their interest. We are waiting for them to submit formal applications,” the chairman said.
Enrolment process and eligibility criteria have been relaxed to attract more people to the scheme. This month, the authority increased the maximum age limit [to join the scheme] from 60 to 65. “This will benefit many NRIs who are still working in the Gulf,” Contractor said.
The minimum annual payment has also been lowered from Rs6,000 (Dh337) to Rs1,000 (Dh56.14), he said. Anyone can join the scheme with a minimum monthly contribution of Rs500.
The scheme is suitable for all classes of NRIs. “It is professionally managed, flexible, portable [no need to change account along with job change] and regulated [by the government],” Contractor explained.
“It offers very good returns. During the past 6 to 7 years, we have offered more than 10 per cent returns,” he said.
IBMC Global Network, the retirement advisor appointed by the authority, told Gulf News they have taken up this task as part of the corporate social responsibility initiatives. They started conducting free awareness sessions late in September. “We found that awareness about the scheme is very low. Therefore, we will organise sessions across the UAE,” said Sajith Kumar PK, CEO and Managing Director of IBMC.
Dinesh Kumar, first secretary and counsellor - community affairs at the Indian Embassy, said the embassy’s Indian Workers Resource Centre [IWRC] has been promoting the scheme among workers as part of their general awareness programmes.