States’ Shift to Old Pension Scheme: A Fiscal Time Bomb, Says RBI

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has expressed significant concerns over the decision of several Indian states to revert to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), highlighting potential long-term fiscal challenges. States like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh have recently announced this shift from the National Pension Scheme (NPS) to the OPS.

Key Concerns:

  • Fiscal Sustainability: The RBI’s report points out the potential risks of shifting back to the OPS, primarily in terms of fiscal sustainability. The OPS, with its Defined Benefits system, contrasts with the NPS’s defined contributions. In the short term, states might see a reduction in their pension outgo, but this is likely to be overshadowed by substantial rises in future unfunded pension liabilities.
  • Medium to Long-Term Stress: The immediate financial relief provided by the OPS is countered by the increased fiscal stress states will likely experience in the medium to long term. While states may save about 0.1% of GDP in yearly pension outgo until 2040 by reverting to the OPS, they would then need to manage an average additional increase in pension expenditure of about 0.5% of yearly GDP post-2040.
  • Global Context: The RBI’s cautionary stance is supported by global trends. Many developed economies that previously employed Defined Benefits schemes have faced escalating public expenditure due to increased life expectancy and changing demographics. This has led to a re-examination and often reform of pension schemes worldwide.
  • Immediate vs. Future Costs: The OPS offers immediate gains for states by eliminating the need to contribute to the NPS for current employees. However, the future fiscal implications are potentially severe, with unfunded OPS likely to exert considerable pressures on state finances.
  • Fiscal Responsibility: The RBI’s report emphasizes the need for fiscal prudence and responsibility, especially considering the potential tax burden on future generations and the importance of medium-term fiscal sustainability.


The RBI’s warning highlights the complex interplay between short-term political decisions and long-term fiscal health. The decision to revert to the OPS may provide immediate financial relief but poses significant risks for future state budgets and fiscal stability. This development is particularly noteworthy given the broader context of global economic trends and fiscal challenges faced by other countries with similar pension schemes.


The RBI’s report serves as a crucial reminder of the need for balanced and forward-looking fiscal policies. As India continues to navigate its economic trajectory, the decisions made by its states on matters like pension schemes will have profound implications for their fiscal health and the economic well-being of their citizens.



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