Cabinet tomorrow should end the longest
delay in 50 years to announce last year's EPF dividend - and ensure that it
is not the lowest in 40 years of below 5 per cent
by Lim Kit Siang
Finance Minister Datuk Chan Kong Choy told the Dewan Rakyat last Thursday
that the Employees Provident Fund board had decided on last year's dividend
for contributors and was now awaiting approval from the Finance Minister.
Winding up the debate on the Employees Provident Fund (Amendment) Bill 2003,
Chan said the rate would be announced once the Finance Minister gives his
It is most regrettable that Chan had not been truly frank, accountable and
transparent in Parliament on the question of the EPF dividend for last year,
as explaining the reason for the longest delay in 50 years to announce the
EPF dividend - which is expected to the lowest in 40 years of below 5 per
In the past half a century, the EPF would often announce its dividend for
the previous year in February, and only on rare occasions making the
announcement in March - but never as late as April. Is the EPF dividend last
year only to be announced next mlonth, after the return of Datuk Seri Dr.
Mahathir Mohamad to his duties as Finance Minister?
Going by past practice, the EPF Board would have already made its decision
and made its recommendation for the EPF dividend for last year to the
Finance Minister by the second half of February.
Is Chan suggesting that the delay in announcing the EPF dividend for next
year was because of the failure to date of the Acting Finance Minister,
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to make a decision on the matter - and if
so, an explanation from Abdullah is warranted.
Yesterday, Abdullah urged civil servants at every level, from the Chief
Secretary of the Government to district officers, to embrace the First World
thinking and work culture - to cut down bureaucracy and red tape, promote
good customer service, transparency and efficient time management.
The Cabinet should set the example to the entire civil service and the 23
million Malaysians to root out the "First World Infrastructure, Third World
Mentality" malaise, and as a first step, the Cabinet tomorrow should end the
longest delay in 50 years to announce the EPF dividend for last year - and
ensure that it is not the lowest in 40 years of below 5 per cent
If the delay in the announcement
of the EPF dividend last year is because Abdullah had directed the EPF Board
to reconsider its decision to announce the lowest dividend in 40 years, then
it is commendable. However, if the delay is to wait until Mahathir returns
to make the unpopular announcement, then it is unacceptable.
If the bad news eventuate, the 10.3 million EPF contributors are entitled to
a full accounting as to why their dividend should be the lowest in 40 years,
and assured of the efficiency, competence, accountability, transparency and
integrity of EPF stewardship of RM200 billion of their life savings.
In such a situation, the Cabinet should ensure five steps so as not to
forfeit public confidence in the EPF, viz:
a full and satisfactory
explanation for the EPF declaring the lowest dividend in 40 ears of below 5%
for 2002, to convince the 10.3 million EPF contributors that this was not
because of imprudent equity investments, bad loan decisions or bail-out
operations gone wrong;
amendment of the 1991 EPF Act to
allow for direct representation of EPF contributors on the EPF Board and EPF
a new EPF policy on accountability
and transparency, as making public its shares dealings in the stock market
and beneficiaries of its loans;
a mechanism for interaction
between the 10.3 million EPF contributors and the EPF Board and Management;
"green light" for establishment of
an EPF Contributors' Association.
At present, although there are
workers' representatives on the EPF Board, they are not represented on the
EPF Investment Panel. Furthermore, the six trade union representatives on
the EPF Board are mostly kept in the dark about the share dealings of the
EPF Investment Panel.
EPF has a history since the
eighties of using EPF monies to jack up the stock market, resulting
frequently with the fingers of the millions of EPF contributors being burnt
and up to now, there is still no accountability whether as to the huge sums
lost or disciplinary actions against those behind such irresponsible
The time has come for the Cabinet
to send out a strong message that there should be greater accountability,
transparency and good governance in the EPF by giving the "green light" for
the establishment of an EPF Contributors' Association to protect the rights
and interests of the 10 million EPF contributors, with powers to hold the
EPF Board and EPF Investment Panel to account through periodic meetings on
the propriety, probity and profitability of all EPF decisions.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National