President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev discussed priorities in the area of social protection of the population during a meeting on November 21.
It was noted that over the past two years, the number of recipients of social benefits has increased by 1.3 times, while the amount of benefits has doubled, and the procedure has been introduced whereby working pensioners are assigned pensions in full amount.
However, a number of problems persist in the sphere, as evidenced, in particular, by the registration of 36,000 complaints by the People’s Reception Offices in 9 months with regard to social benefits.
Thus far, there have been no clear-cut criteria for classifying and accounting for such persons as socially vulnerable. The concepts of ‘consumer basket’ and ‘subsistence minimum’, an important factor in determining the size of pensions and benefits, still waiting to be implemented. Orders for free treatment of socially significant diseases do not always reach citizens in real need.
A similar picture is observed in the allocation of housing to socially vulnerable segments of the population along with exemption from parental payment in preschool educational institutions.
Shortcomings also persist in the provision of housing and work for those who come out of Mehribonlik Houses (Mercy Homes – orphanages), in the care for single elderly people, as well as the rehabilitation of persons without a permanent residence.
There is no holistic system in coordinating the efforts in social protection, although as many as 30 government departments, organizations and commissions deal with these issues.
The meeting participants discussed the introduction of a completely new system in this area based on international practice.
The President indicated the need to identify and arrange the registration of citizens of socially vulnerable categories, and ensure targeted payments.
The Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy and Industry, and the State Statistics Committee were tasked with developing a procedure for calculating the size of the consumer basket and the cost of living, as well as consumption standards, with the engagement of experts from international organizations. The importance of introducing these concepts after testing them in cities and regions was emphasized.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev also urged officials to introduce exact criteria (indicators) for classifying the population as socially vulnerable and designate for benefits, and work out a single register of recipients of social assistance.
The registry’s advantage will be in the unification of data from tax authorities, internal affairs, cadastre, self-government bodies, healthcare institutions, of pension distribution bureaus, labor departments, as well as banks and public utilities offices in a single database. As a result, the time for collecting documents will be cut from the current few days to a few hours, hence allowing citizens to deal with one government agency.
It was noted that social protection should not be limited to the payment of benefits, but also help those in need to “get on their feet”. For example, 80 percent of persons with disabilities can be provided with useful job by creating working conditions corresponding to their abilities.
The Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations have been instructed to revise the classifier of occupations by disability groups and deliver additional opportunities for persons with disabilities to work.
The head of our state ordered to elaborate a program for the social adaptation of youths, namely, inmates of Mercy Homes, that would also provide them with jobs.
The President pointed out the need to reform the social insurance system, as well as to increase the interest of the population in paying retiree contributions through the transition to a three-layer pension system.
Thus, the first level envisages the allocation of state pension of minimum amount. Under the second track, the individual retirement fund is accumulated in the personal account on the basis of deduction of a certain amount from the employee’s salary with interest not lower than the Central Bank refinancing rate. In the third scheme, people settle on the amount of contributions to the pension fund themselves.
If this system receives support, citizens, in addition to receiving a state-guaranteed pension, will be able to determine for themselves what size pension they will be able to expect when they reach retirement age.
In this regard, the Ministry of Finance was instructed to develop, together with experts from the World Bank and other reputable financial organizations, the concept of pension reform, as well as revise the types of social insurance.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev emphasized that reforming the current system using the “shock therapy” method can affect different sections of the population in different ways, and thus, taking this into account, instructed those in charge to develop a social protection strategy through to 2030. The task was set to conduct an experiment in each region on the new system of social protection of the population by the end of the first half of 2020.
Special attention was paid to issues of social support for single elderly people, improvement of the activities of rehabilitation centers for people without a fixed place of residence.
Measures have been identified on the agenda discussed at the meeting.