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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is it true Mr. PM @NajibRazak, that UMNO has turned the EPF into its private cookie jar?

How true this allegations I received via email by someone who wish not to be mentioned his name. 


I believe the hereinafter email has been forwarded to hundreds and thousands of people out there and honestly it disturbing people's feelings and emotions.



Umno has turned the EPF into its private cookie jar

The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is one of the largest savings funds in the world which has accumulated more than RM 440.52 billion in 2011. And this represents the life savings of about 12 million Malaysians. Of course money kept under the pillow would not generate more income. It has to be invested prudently. The issue now is has the EPF under UMNO-led government invested the hard-earned savings of Malaysians judiciously. Until 2011 the government has already used 60 per cent of the people's savings on various loans and investments.
The 12 million EPF contributors are not somewhat contented with the government. Many EPF contributors surveyed across the nation have the perception that they have been taken for a ride by the government. Their life-long savings is not giving them good returns. “The government is taking big loans from the EPF. Could this be the reason why the EPF is now getting employers to increase their mandatory contributions from 12% to 13%?” asked a 50-year-old single mother attached to a government-linked company (GLC).
Government still owed the EPF RM240 billion
On 23 June 2011, the EPF said that 60 per cent of its funds have been lent to or borrowed by the Malaysian government. As at Dec 2010 the government still owed the EPF about RM240 billion. In other words, the UMNO-led government has already spent or used 60 per cent of all the savings. The fact is it does not really have a good track record of how to manage the economy sensibly. 2012 will spot the 15th year of budget deficit by the Federal government with no sign of financial intelligences.
If money lent to the government is used for profitable business they are wondering why the dividend to the EPF contributors is so low – hovering around 4 to 5% before 2011. “They are paying us a paltry dividend. We are bearing the burden of diminishing returns,” said a senior clerk attached to a chemical industry in Kemaman. “The paltry dividend only indicates that the EPF money is not invested in rewarding business but those with links to UMNO,” she added.
“Even the latest 6% dividend came as no surprise to the contributors. This is a one-off affair that only happens when UMNO is facing a general election. All figures will normally go up during this time – dividends for PNB unit trusts (more than 7 per cent including bonus), Tabung Haji (6 per cent) and so on,” she reproved.
High-risk – no-return investments
The EPF contributors are now worried that their money has gone into high-risk – no-return investments. The Auditor-General’s Report 2010 indicated that the EPF had approved loans worth an astounding RM55.1 billion not backed by government guarantees. The 13 debtors however were not named. The Auditor-General’s Report 2010 also found only one of the 13 debtors was qualified to obtain a loan without such a guarantee. That particular debtor was extended credit worth RM21.3 billion.
This form of lending must have obviously side-stepped good practices and apposite financial procedures. It also reflects on the lack of transparency and accountability on the government part.
“They are gambling with the people's life savings for their retirement and old age. Things are never transparent and we don’t actually know what’s happening to our savings. A lot of things are hidden from us. What are the trade unions doing? The board of directors and the ministry of Finance?” chided a 43 year-old senior manager with a manufacturing company.
Instead of issuing bonds that has a better liquidity the borrowers find a short-cut to put their hands into the EPF’s till. These are usually borrowers who cannot secure loans from the banks or from any international sources. Taking a huge loan from the EPF – usually with a very low interest rate – is one sure way of getting their business going regardless of its competitiveness. On this basis too the government is indebted to help if these companies fail in their business;
There will be massive financial implications to the country's economy and the EPF when these companies were to default on their payments or go bankrupt. However, the EPF can give cheaper loans than commercial banks to GLCs and crony companies to save them from bankruptcy and in some cases make big profits from the people’s hard-earned contributions.
“This is not money that belongs to the state. It's the people's pension fund. But it is being used and abused for chiefly political purposes,” said a lecturer in a local private university.
How they can pay dividends
It is interesting to find out how the EPF can pay dividends of 4 to 5% when their returns from their huge loans are usually not more than 2 to 3%? They are practically not making much money out of these investments when the interests are charged at these figures. And when it comes to paying dividends this does not come from business profits but they have to sell some of their interests in the listed companies, or else nothing much could be paid to the workers.
“Or else how can the government pay a dividend of + or - 5 % when banks’ FD rates are less than 3.5%, some trust funds are losing money, some GLC's are also doing badly?” chided another 39-year-old bank executive
In other words, the EPF is actually not doing any viable business but assisting the government to help some UMNO-linked companies and the GLCs. When these businesses fail the government has again to bail them out and money from the EPF, among other sources, is used.
“The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) sold a whopping RM441.09mil worth of Malaysia-listed equities on March 7 alone, in line with its trend of active disposals over the last two weeks.” reported a local daily.
“Bursa Malaysia filings showed that on March 7, the EPF along with its portfolio managers dumped a total 83.68 million shares on the open market, substantially more than the 7.4 million shares it had acquired the same day. The number of shares disposed of represents almost half the total volume traded that day, which stood at 173.14 million shares. Fund managers reckon that the fund was merely taking profit.”
To the economists, the EPF needs the money to pay the “feel-good” pre-election dividend of 6% to the contributors.
Controversial NFCorp
Unlike dealing with commercial banks dealing with the government or the EPF which is under government control the interests incurred would normally be around 2% or less for any loans given out. Take for instance the controversial NFCorp . It was given a soft loan of RM250 million from the government with only 2% interest rate and a five-year grace period before repayment. Even earning from this amount is quite controversial as in many cases they end up as non-performing loans and when payment is defaulted the lender will be in trouble. But in most cases the government will step in to bail the failed companies by using taxpayers’ money, the EPF or Petronas dollars.
“Being an EPF contributor, I am not surprised. The EPF has been giving an average 4 to 5 % return over the past 10 years. Now we know with facts why they are giving only such low rate of return. Take in the unofficial inflation rate of 4%, this makes our real return at only 1 % or nil,” quipped a 54 year-old-worker in a private firm.
Rightfully, workers should not be happy with 5% per cent dividends in this context. All savings will have to take into consideration of depreciated value of their savings due to inflation.
“Just imagine if the EPF welcomes the extension of retirement age to 60 then that contributors cannot withdraw their savings for another five years. This will only benefit the government more,” said a 43 year-old lady executive with a local bank.
RM6.5 billion loan to Felda
RM6.5 billion loan was taken by Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). It seems the EPF statement had stated that the company regarded the loan as an investment that could contribute to a “better dividend achievement” for its contributors. But if Felda, as claimed by the government is in sound financial shape why the RM6.5 billion loan from the EPF? Why not from the banks or other international lenders? Of course these lenders would look into Felda’s risk rating and the interest rate will be higher. It cannot be a meagre 2% interest. Thus using the EPF money will be the most convenient for the government to avoid all these hassles.
Beyond that, if Felda has a healthy bank balance or cash reserves and claims to have assets worth more than RM19 billion why must it bother to take a huge loan from the EPF? And is the government transparent on all transactions involving the EPF – the amount of loans taken, who are those given the loans, their credentials and the profit and the loss incurred thus far? A senior manager of a company has this to say, “the EPF has not been transparent in its dealings, especially pertaining to its investments and "unrealised losses".
Government debt stands at 53%
Government's borrowing is not risk free. If the government borrows disproportionately in relation to its GDP and without exercising judiciousness on the projects it is financing, the long-term implication can be disastrous. The country’s federal debt level reached RM456 billion at the end of 2011, which is a discernible 88.4 per cent increase from the RM242 billion in 2006. This debt level will further increase with more borrowings to develop more projects.
The Constitution of Malaysia caps government debt at 55 per cent of GDP. As of 30 June 2011, government debt stands at 53 per cent but this figure only includes government borrowing, not public borrowing. When both government and public borrowings are encompassed the figure may surpass far more than the 55 per cent cap. Seemingly when it touches 55 per cent, the BN government will officially be in crisis and the Constitution may need to be changed to increase borrowing or possibly it will require a bailout. But with all the uncertainties in the world economies, with less prudent financial management the Malaysian economy can crumble at any time due to this “financial crunch”.
Unlike developed countries with strong fundamentals like the US, where debts and spending go more than savings a small country like Malaysia cannot sustain the pressure of a ‘financial crunch”. Foreigners will lose confidence in the Malaysian economy like what has happened to Greece. Printing more money will not resolve the problem as high inflation will set in and money will lose its value. This will affect local and international businesses.
It's when rating agencies such as S&P's or Moody downgrade Malaysia's sovereign rating by 2 or 3 points will indicate the country has exceeded the limit. And this will cause an abrupt plunge of the ringgit. That's what has happened to Greece where the government had to write off 50 per cent of their outstanding government loans. And if this happens to Malaysia, the EPF will be asked to take a 50 per cent cut of outstanding debt owed by the government. More than half of savers’ EPF money will be lost and the UMNO-led government would then plead to the people to remain patient and be patriotic. And after more than 30 to 40 years of working hard worker’s EPF savings would shrink. Dividends paid will totally diminish and even the money saved will become half the value. Printing more money is not going to help.
Refused to grant the funding
Venturing into any non-profitable housing scheme will undermine the interests of the EPF because the buyers will not be able to or will not repay the loan. The government has the SPNB (Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd) that was initiated in1997 to provide for affordable homes to the poor. Now comes PR1MA (Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia), which is supposed to be for 20 000 house buyers in one precinct under an UMNO leader using the EPF money.
The use of RM1.5bil from the EPF in a scheme offering home loans to those who cannot qualify for bank financing will be disadvantageous to the EPF contributors. The government is not safeguarding the EPF’s interests again, as this deal cannot ensure secure financial returns for the EPF. But this is not UMNO’s concern. UMNO is more interested in politics and its own survival in the next GE.
There is a big risk in this scheme, as the three banks approached by the government had refused to grant the funding to these 20,000 house buyers. Why must the government involve the EPF then? If the government wants to hold the responsibility of any default, then rightfully the government should be involved directly to finance this scheme. This is the right way to safeguard the interests of the EPF.
The EPF is not UMNO’s cookie jar. The money belongs to the workers and should not be used to achieve a political goal. If this is a charity program as claimed by UMNO then it is the onus of the government to support such a project on its own.
Not be used as a cash cow
Billions of ringgit from The Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) today has been used to rescue failing companies listed on the Malaysian stock Exchange. Although the EPF is one of the biggest pension funds in the world, the workers feel that it should not be used as a cash cow to bail out financially troubled Government agencies or companies. “The workers must not be left in the dark. Every decision made by the EPF must be above board. If they can prove that after investing the money in a proper way, they still cannot get good returns, that is fine, we can accept it,” commented a senior bank manager.
But taking the EPF funds for political reasons, to bail out failing companies or to lend the money out to UMNO crony companies is undeserved. This becomes a political agenda and not business. UMNO-BN cronies and their patron political select are actually feathering their own nests to the impairment of national interests and the rightful owners of that pension fund.
- Malaysia Chronicle

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