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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Malaysians have expressed confusion about the criteria for the i-Sinar withdrawal scheme, as announced yesterday by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), for which at least eight million members are said to be eligible.
Many took to social media almost immediately after the announcement was made to vent their frustrations.
One criterion that appeared to draw the most ire was related to withdrawals from Account 1.
EPF stated only those who had suffered a 30 per cent income reduction or more, including other benefits such as allowance and overtime from March 1, 2020 onwards, qualified.
Yesterday’s announcement appeared to contradict the one made by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz on November 26.
During his winding-up speech on Budget 2021 in Parliament, Tengku Zafrul had said anybody, as long as their income has been affected, can request to withdraw their savings in Account 1.
He said this applied to contributors who had lost their job or suffered a loss of income “at any percentage”.
Speaking to Malay Mail, public relation practitioner Audrey Janice, 38, said the government should not have made a blanket statement without proper details, lamenting that the M40 group will always get the short end of the stick.
“The M40 group will always suffer. The government needs to rethink the categorisation of M40 in this pandemic. Many of us are in the same position as the B40 group if you reassess our household income.
“They forgot to think of us as household contributors. My husband’s business has gone down the drain and I have been the sole household contributor with a 20 per cent pay cut since March 2020. But I don't get to withdraw anything now, because I don't meet the criteria of a 30 per cent cut,” she said.
Another EPF contributor, research firm administrator Mohammad Affin Sulaiman, 42, said he does not see how the criteria of a 30 per cent pay cut applies to the man in the street.
“The 30 per cent cut usually affects those in ‘executive level’ positions. Others have either been laid off completely or suffered a 10 to 20 per cent salary cut. How is this helping the layman?
“Some of us already had low salaries to begin with, and a 20 per cent cut is a big deal to us.”
Meanwhile, EPF contributor Michelle Chan, 36, said the Finance Ministry should have studied the issue properly before making the initial announcement that had buoyed Malaysians’ hopes up.
“I feel a proper study was not done. They forgot about those who need to bear the expenses of their spouses and ageing parents,” she told Malay Mail.
“At the end of the day, it is the people’s money. Let them decide what they want to do with it in this pandemic.”
Angry comments also flooded Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s official Facebook page after he asked his followers if they were happy with EPF’s announcement.
The former prime minister was among those who had lobbied for a moratorium extension as well as EPF withdrawals for anyone whose salary has been affected by the pandemic.
One Facebook user named Yahya Ahmad commented: “EPF needs to refine the criteria for withdrawal. It should be easy and shouldn't just assess a particular category. It shouldn’t be a question of whether a person has a high or low income; instead it is their right to withdraw their own contributions. The government must meet EPF and discuss this.”
EPF yesterday announced two withdrawal categories. Category 1 includes members who have not contributed to EPF for at least two consecutive months on application; or members who are still working but have suffered a reduction of their base salary by 30 per cent or more from March 1, 2020 onwards.
For this category, supporting documents are not required and approval is automatic based on EPF’s internal data. Members will only need to apply online via isinar.kwsp.gov.my from December 21, 2020. Payments to eligible members under this category will be done from the middle of January 2021.
Meanwhile, Category 2 includes members whose total income has been reduced by 30 per cent or more, including other benefits such as allowance and overtime from March 1, 2020 onwards. For such cases, supporting documents, such as salary slips before and after the reduction of income and an employer’s notice of a suspension or reduction of allowance and/or overtime claims, must be provided.
Should members not be able to furnish the required supporting documents, other relevant documents such as bank statements or an employer’s written acknowledgement will be given due consideration. Members who fall under this category can start applying online from January 11, 2021.
On November 26, Tengku Zafrul described qualified members as those who have lost their job or whose pay has been affected by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia.
He went on to say those with less than RM90,000 in Account 1 would be allowed to withdraw up to RM10,000, while those with more than RM90,000, would be allowed to withdraw up to RM60,000.
The only stipulation would be that members would not be allowed to take out the desired sum all at once.