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Acting now on pensions will help to avoid a crisis

THE Government knew the answer when it asked the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for help in devising a new pension system; a system that forces those without a pension to save.

That conclusion will be unpalatable to many suffering from the effects of the financial crisis.

Money is desperately short in many households. Retirement seems a long way off. That view is understandable but mistaken; a universal and sustainable pension scheme is essential and the Government must now build one.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is fortunate that the age profile of this country means that the challenges are not overwhelming.

We are still a young country. There is still time to devise a scheme but that does not mean that it should be put on the long finger like so many other issues in political life.

Any scheme must also tackle the question of public sector pensions, which will one day overwhelm the State's finances if the rules are not changed. It must also tackle the issue of trust and credibility.

The public has already seen our politicians plunder former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy's pension scheme to plug the gigantic gap in the national finances.

Private pensions have also been plundered. There is every reason to believe that the same would happen again if the country were in trouble.

It makes sense but acts as a disincentive to save. There is no point in forcing people to save for a pension if the money can then be taken and spent on the day-to-day running of the country.

The creation of a fair and decent pension system is one of the great challenges facing almost every government in the West.

The creation of such a scheme in Ireland would be a magnificent legacy from this period of financial chaos.

Only the present Cabinet can decide.

Irish Independent