Cabinet on Wednesday should revamp EPF management and governance as EPF CEO’s explanation that the proposed limitation on full withdrawal on EPF savings on retirement at 55 is merely “at thinking state” totally unconvincing
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The statement by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Azlan Zainol yesterday that the proposed limitation on the full withdrawal of EPF savings on retirement at 55 is merely “ at the thinking stage” is totally unconvincing.
Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has temporarily resolved the controversy and nation-wide outrage by the 10.4 million EPF contributors at the attempt to deny them their legal right to withdraw in full their EPF savings when they reach the age of 55, the danger about the quality and security of the RM217 billion total EPF funds is not completely over.
Malaysians and in particular the 10.4 million EPF contributors should give serious thought as to what would have happened if the EPF management had not committed the faux pas of making public its proposal to limit full withdrawal of EPF monies on retirement at 55 at the most politically-sensitive time in the few months before the next general election, but had instead kept the whole idea under wrap and making it known only after a Barisan Nasional landslide victory in the next general election expected in the first or latest the second quarter of next year.
In such an event, would Ministers be competing with each other and the Prime Minister to express their disagreement, as they would have no fear of losing votes with the general election behind them?
This is the first time that so many Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers have publicly jumped on the EPF proposal to limit full withdrawal of EPF monies on retirement age at 55 years – because it could mean a massive loss of votes for the Barisan Nasional Ministers and candidates in the next general election.
The pertinent question is why no Ministers had ever spoken up to articulate public unhappiness about EPF mismanagement and bad governance, as for instance in the lowest EPF dividend in 40 years at 4.25 per cent announced in April this year or the billions of ringgit of poor investments and bad loans, if they are consistently vigilant about the welfare and interests of the 10.4 million EPF contributors?
One gets the impression that either the right hand in government does not know what the left hand is doing, when the critical policy makers on the EPF Board are the top Treasury officials, or the EPF management had only made the mistake of the wrong timining in making public the proposal when the country is facing a general election – which means that the proposal will crop up again after the next general election.
The Cabinet on Wednesday should revamp EPF management and governance not only because the EPF CEO’s explanation that the proposed limitation on full withdrawal on EPF savings on retirement at 55 is merely “at thinking state” is totally unconvincing, but also because of poor EPF management and bad governance with hardly any accountability and transparency to the stakeholders.
The Cabinet should commission an inquiury into the critique of a long-time EPF insider, Dr. R. Thillanathan, who had served for a decade on the EPF Investment Panel, who had admitted at World Bank forums that the EPF had committed the serious failure to run the EPF in the best interest only of its members, raising serious governance issues as to why the interest of the 10 million EPF contributors had not been given top-most priority over all other considerations and interests by the EPF Board and management.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman