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Upgrading the investment policy framework of public pension funds

  • Vittas, Dimitri
  • Impavido, Gregorio
  • O'Connor, Ronan

Public pension funds have the potential to benefit from low operating costs because they enjoy economies of scale and avoid large marketing costs. But this important advantage has in most countries been dissipated by poor investment performance. The latter has been attributed to a weak governance structure, lack of independence from government interference, and a low level of transparency and public accountability. Recent years have witnessed the creation of new public pension funds in several countries, and the modernization of existing ones in others, with special emphasis placed on upgrading their investment policy framework and strengthening their governance structure. This paper focuses on the experience of four new public pension funds that have been created in Norway, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. The paper discusses the safeguards that have been introduced to ensure their independence and their insulation from political pressures. It also reviews their performance and their evolving investment strategies. All four funds started with the romantic idea of operating as'managers of managers'and focusing on external passive management but their strategies have progressively evolved to embrace internal active management and significant investments in alternative asset classes. The paper draws lessons for other countries that wish to modernize their public pension funds.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4499.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4499
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  1. David Robalino, 2005. "Pensions in the Middle East and North Africa: Time for Change," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7427, December.
  2. Impavido, Gregorio, 2002. "On the governance of public pension fund management," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2878, The World Bank.
  3. Iglesias, Augusto & Palacios, Robert J., 2000. "Managing public pension reserves - Part I : evidence from the international experience," Social Protection Discussion Papers 21311, The World Bank.
  4. Palacios, Robert, 2002. "Managing public pension reserves Part II : lessons from five recent OECD initiatives," Social Protection Discussion Papers 33407, The World Bank.
  5. Olivia S. Mitchell & Ping Lung Hsin, 1994. "Public Sector Pension Governance and Performance," NBER Working Papers 4632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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