KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — The Employees Provident Fund has warned that any erosion of trust towards the agency might cause a massive withdrawal that will negatively impact capital markets in the country, after noting that more than RM270 billion in savings can be withdrawn at any time by its members who have reached above age 55 or 60, or those who have more than RM1 million in their account.
The retirement fund said this after expressing concern that further withdrawals from the fund to help soften the impact of Covid-19 and recent natural disasters would “erode its position as a provident fund and trustee to members’ retirement future.”
The EPF said “such erosion of trust towards the agency might force these members to withdraw en masse, thus causing negative impact to the country’s markets as the EPF was a major pillar in the holding of capital market and financial investment assets in the country.”
“The unprecedented scale and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters have pushed the country’s current social protection to its limits, and the approach of using EPF savings for emergency needs will certainly cause a severe impact as members face very low savings in their retirement years, compounded by other uncertainties such as rising healthcare costs,” it said in a statement today.
The EPF said the rollout of i-Lestari and i-Sinar withdrawals in 2020, followed by i-Citra in July 2021, had been exceptional in nature as these initiatives were extended to meet the urgent cash flow needs of members during the periods of the movement control orders (MCO) and the subsequent economic slowdown.
As of October 2021, a total of RM101 billion had been withdrawn under the three withdrawal schemes, equivalent to 22 per cent of the total RM530 billion of the government stimulus programme as support for Malaysians as a whole, it noted.
“While the withdrawal initiatives provided some financial relief to members during the pandemic and various MCOs, the withdrawals have inevitably led to 6.1 million members now having less than RM10,000 in their EPF accounts, of which 3.6 million have less than RM1,000, levels at which members are not able to guarantee their retirement,” said EPF.
The fund noted that the majority of those who have made emergency withdrawals from the EPF were Bumiputera members, resulting in 4.4 million or 54 per cent members from the segment now having less than RM10,000, and two million or 25 per cent have less than RM1,000.
“This is particularly worrying as the numbers show the increasing percentage of members not meeting the EPF Basic Savings threshold of RM240,000 which is the minimum amount members should have when they reach age 55 in order to have a decent retirement,” it said.
In addition to the depletion of individual future income, the EPF was also concerned that further leakage would erode its position as a provident fund and trustee to members’ retirement future.
As trustee, the EPF stressed that it has a fiduciary duty to uphold the equitable interest of all its members, more so when there are still millions of members who maintain their savings untouched and hope for better returns that would see them through their golden years. — Bernama