This week's report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while saying the UK economy is doing ...
This week's report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while saying the UK economy is doing better than most at present, is still proposing monetary and fiscal policies that could leave the government struggling to implement recommendations on pensions reform.
A major IMF goal is for the government to introduce more user fees for public services to discourage inefficient use, especially in areas such as health and education that are being promised extra cash by Gordon Brown.
But this rests on the premise that poor Britons are able to access these services via means testing to ensure they are not shut out.
"Higher income transfers - or, when applicable, means-testing user fees - can offset the negative impact of such fees on the poor," it says.
This contradicts some of the most important recommendations for developing "simplified" pensions products, and the industry's lobbying to stop penalising savers through means tested minimum funding rules.
The IMF does not dwell on links between government spending on health or education and pensions.
Instead it says the government is doing the right thing by trying to minimise the exposure of the public purse to the pensions crisis, and says it is less vulnerable than governments in other countries.
"Underpinnig fiscal sustainability are the low level of public debt, less unfavourable demographics, and, most importantly, limited future public pension obligations, " it says in its 2002 Article IV Consultation Concluding Statement
However, if the IMF is serious about extending means testing to raise efficiencies across Whitehall, then this will surely apply as much to the Department of Work and Pensions as any other department.
Gordon Brown may be powerful, but he still needs as many Mandarins on board as possible: civil war within Whitehall caused by the exclusion of means testing from DWP alone would not be the best Christmas present the Treasury could wish for.
Above all, means testing would take the pensions industry back to square one, with advisers likely to recommend poorer clients not save and go for the means tested income guaranteed by government.
The government gets support in the IMF report - which, incidentally is co-authored by the Treasury to an extent - for implementing Sandler's recommendations and the idea of simplification and transparency are seen as a way to boost savings.
The problem, again, is that Sandler's proposals require confidence on the part of savers that their entitlements to state funded income - however small a proportion of total retirement income that may be - is not reduced by means testing.
Also interesting in its absence in respect of the IMF's view of the situation is the lack of discussion about just why so many people have been recommended to opt back into SERPS, and why, when the chips are down, people will always see government finances as more secure than any private money.
The bottom line is that no country has ever been taken over and carved up by secured creditors just because it defaulted on debt repayments; unlike private companies nation states tend to endure.
Re-defining solvency laws to rescue companies sailing as close to the wind as Equitable Life is unlikely to encourage poor Britons to put more money into private pensions savings even if they could.
State pensions benefits may be small, but at least they are better than nothing and come with a virtually gold-clad guarantee that they will be paid, especially in the UK, which as the IMF says is facing far less of a pensions liability than other developed countries.
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