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KUALA LUMPUR: The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has asserted its commitment to help members rebuild their retirement income adequacy.
In a statement Tuesday, the retirement fund said it supports the discontinuation of any further withdrawals of EPF savings under the i-Citra scheme for members to ensure members’ retirement future would not be further compromised.
The EPF is a retirement fund that is mandated to safeguard members’ savings for their future retirement needs and wellbeing.
Established since 1951, the EPF is governed by the EPF Act 1991, which stipulates that Account 1 (70% of savings) is designated for retirement, while Account 2 (30% of savings) is meant for discretionary withdrawals aimed at securing a brighter retirement in the future.
“There is, however, no provision in the act that permits withdrawals under natural disasters,” it said.
“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 severe impact as members face very low savings in their retirement years, compounded by other uncertainties such as rising healthcare costs,” EPF said.
EPF said the roll-out 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“As of October 2021, a total of RM101bil has been withdrawn under the three withdrawal schemes.
“This is equivalent to 22% of the total RM530bil of the government stimulus programme as support for Malaysians as a whole,” it said.
EPF pointed out that 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.
“The majority of those who have made emergency withdrawals from the EPF were Bumiputera members.
“As a result of the withdrawals, 4.4 million or 54% Bumiputera members now have less than RM10,000, and 2.0 million or 25% 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,” EPF said.
The retirement fund is also concerned that further leakage would erode its position as a provident fund and trustee to members’ retirement future.
As trustee, the EPF 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.