Parliament approved amendments to Maldives Pension Act on Wednesday allowing pension fund to cover 80 percent of costs for Hajj pilgrimage.
Prior to the amendments, the Pension Act dictates that the amount utilised from the pension fund for Hajj should not exceed 50 percent of the official amount designated by the state for pilgrimage for the year. This amount was also allowed with the amendments to the act brought at the beginning of the incumbent administration's governance.
The new amendments was passed from the Parliament with unanimous vote from the 70 MPs in attendance.
The bill was submitted to the Parliament on behalf of the government be Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentarian, Kendhikolhudhoo MP Ahmed Easa. The motion will be implemented when it is ratified and gazetted.
While the bill was passed by the Social Affairs Committee without any amendments, the Committee's report made several recommendations.
Highlighting that the purpose of the Pension Act is to pave way for local workers at retirement age to receive pensions and to guarantee social protection by financial means in order to provide opportunities to live independently and self sufficiently, the Committee recommended to continue to adhere to the core components of the Act.
The Committee also recommended setting up a voluntary financial scheme adhering to Islamic regulations for worshippers attempting to finance pilgrimage using the pension fund.
Further, the Committee recommended that it is important to mandate an account balance of MVR 420,000 to fulfil requirements to allow use of the pension fund to finance 80 percent of Hajj costs. The report further detailed that more than 3,600 people had that amount of money deposited in their savings account.
Participants of the pension scheme can only withdraw from their respective saving accounts if they are first-time pilgrims. Additionally, pilgrims must also meet the criteria set by Maldives Pension Administration Office (MPAO).
Among these requirements are having a minimum of MVR 336,000 in retirement saving account at the time a withdrawal request is submitted. This is the minimum amount sufficient to distribute a monthly payment of MVR 2,000 upon reaching retirement age.
Currently, there are 6,000 people eligible to finance pilgrimage through pension.