The shortfall in corporate pension funding worldwide reached an estimated $1 trillion in 2003, according to Donald Johnston, secretary general of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD is extremely concerned about the potential impact of this "time bomb," he warned, adding that this "early warning" should be taken seriously.
Speaking at a Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Mr. Johnston said the emergence of "astonishingly large" pension funding gaps is a major concern for financial policy-makers. "Although some analysts believe that many companies will not have ... difficulties in meeting their pension obligations, it is generally recognized that these obligations could represent a serious drain on resources that would otherwise be available for investment in coming years," he said. "It is of little comfort to know that the largest adverse effects of funding shortfalls are expected to be on firms operating in mature or sunset industries in manufacturing and transport."