Workers unions at major port trusts have asked the
government to reverse its order allowing the 12 major ports to invest their
pension, provident, gratuity and surplus funds in bonds and equities.
“It is one of the very serious and dangerous decisions
taken by the government,” said T Narendra Rao, general secretary, Water
Transport Workers’ Federation of India.
“Investing in equity and equity related instruments
would be highly risky and unpredictable in the present economic scenario. Many
major ports felt the pinch earlier in investing in UTI bonds and some ports are
still struggling to come of out this crisis. Besides these funds are hard
earned money of the workers and it is public money,” Rao wrote in a letter
written to Shipping Secretary Gopal Krishna.
Mr Rao urged the government to have serious
discussions with all the stakeholders before taking the decision; however, he
wanted the Ministry to withdraw the directive issued to the Major Port Trusts ““in
the interests of the industry, workers and port pensioners at large”.
Interestingly, a press statement issued by the
Shipping Ministry on treasury investment of major ports on July 31 had omitted
pension funds from the list, potentially to mislead the workers unions and
check their wrath against the decision, says Rao. However, the order issued by
the Shipping Ministry in this regard on 27 July includes pension funds also.
Accordingly, for treasury investments of pension, provident and gratuity funds,
the major ports will now follow the guidelines framed by the ministry of labour
and employment for such investments.
Between 45 and 50 per cent of such funds will have to
be invested in government securities, another 35-45 per cent in debt and
related instruments, 5-15 per cent in equities and related instruments (shares
listed on BSE/NSE with a minimum market cap of 5,000 crore, mutual funds
regulated by SEBI with minimum 65 per cent corpus in publicly traded stocks on
BSE/NSE and various exchange traded funds regulated by SEBI).
Besides, 5 per cent of such funds can be invested in
mortgage-backed securities, Infrastructure Investment Trusts and securities
issued by Real Estate Investment Trusts regulated by SEBI.
For surplus funds, the major ports will be guided by
the norms issued by the Department of Public Enterprises for such investments
by central public sector undertakings. These include treasury bills, Government
of India securities, term deposits in nationalised banks, instruments issued by
nationalised banks and mutual funds (up to 30 per cent of available surplus
funds can be invested in SEBI regulated public sector mutual funds having AAA
rating and minimum corpus of 1,000 crore).