THE National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) today lauded the government’s decision to stop allowing people to withdraw their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings before retirement.
NUBE secretary-general J.Solomon said that people needed to dip into their retirement funds to tide them over a crisis was sign of an incompetent government.
“NUBE welcomes the firmness shown by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Minister of Finance Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz and EPF in disallowing further withdrawals from the workers’ retirement fund,” Solomon said.
“Dipping into the workers’ retirement fund during each disaster is not a wise approach. It is a universally accepted view that the governments, at both federal and state levels, are responsible for ensuring availability of sufficient basic necessities and their timely distribution to alleviate the hardships faced by flood victims.”
Umno leaders Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki are among the politicians calling on EPF to extend the i-Citra programme to allow additional withdrawals of up to RM10,000.
EPF has said that the EPF Act 1991 does not provide for withdrawals for natural disasters.
It said the law stipulates that the account 1 (70% of savings) is designated for retirement, while Account 2 (30%) is for discretionary withdrawals aimed at securing the future of the account holder.
The i-Lestari, i-Sinar and i-Citra withdrawals in the last two years were exceptions, it said, which were allowed to meet urgent cash flow needs during the lockdowns and Covid-induced economic slowdown.
The prime minister has said that government assistance for flood victims could reach up to RM10,000 for each household.
Those whose homes were destroyed in the floods could get up to RM61,000 in aid.
To this, Solomon said the government must be prepared increase its aid allocation should the assistance it has promised prove insufficient.
He reminded the politicians that the retirement savings of Malaysians have been significantly reduced by the early EPF withdrawals.
“It’s rather shocking that a high 28% (3.6 million members) have less than RM1,000 in their savings. Sadly, many of such pitiful contributors are from the community the political party Umno is representing,” Solomon said.
“We must accept the fact that the lack of sufficient savings is also, inter-alia, due to the absence of a decent wage increase for decades, and particularly, the lack of a living wage.”
Solomon said the lack of a decent wage structure was due to Umno’s failure to lift the wages of workers to match Singapore and other neighbouring countries.
He also slammed the unfair labour laws that have hindered workers and unions from demanding for a fair share of the profits.
“The Umno government of more than 60 years failed to uplift the wages of workers. For Malaysians, this age of unparalleled prosperity is causing great social dislocation.
“To add salt to the wound, the misappropriation of the sovereign fund of Malaysia by certain leaders has retarded income growth for ordinary citizens, to be cared for during such disasters.”
“We hope the government led by Ismail will not repeat the mistakes of his predecessors and prepare an immediate action plan for a decent living wage for workers so that they will have decent savings for exigencies and an appropriate retirement savings for social protection.” – January 4, 2022