Filthy paws in EPF pool

The EPF has become a convenient tool to finance the bad dreams of crooked politicians in power.

Free Malaysia Today

The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is a cash cow with billions in its coffer. To be more accurate, it has about RM407 billion, which easily makes it one of the largest funds in the world. All this billion represents the collective sweat and toil of the 13 million members. They contributed to the huge pile through compulsory deduction of their monthly salary. The money does not come from business ventures. This is a social security organisation and not a profit-making company.

But over the years, this growing gold mine began to attract the eyes of rapacious politicians in power. They saw in EPF a useful medium to bail out ailing companies. They began to put their hands in the pot and draw out huge stacks to invest in the stock market. Some RM5 billion was reportedly dumped to “shore up Bursa Malaysia” to mitigate the “effect of a global economic meltdown” a few years ago. In reality, the money was used to save a badly-hit company.

Soon the EPF tap was turned on more often to help other troubled government-linked companies and political cronies. What was once the property of the millions of workers became practically the sole ownership of the greedy government. It now sees the mountain of cash as its personal piggy bank – to use and abuse according to its whims and fancies. EPF loans were given out like nobody’s business and all shrouded in secrecy. It is estimated that some RM55 billion worth of loans were approved “without any government guarantees”. The hard-earned savings of the innocent public had disappeared into the maw of the money-grubbing crooks.

With a general election drawing near, the political masters have yet again dipped their filthy paws into the cornucopia. This time they want to champion the welfare of the poor to make themselves look good. They proposed taking out RM1.5 billion from the EPF cash machine to help finance a housing scheme for the urban low-income earners. The risks involved in this undertaking were ignored. The decision-makers must surely be motivated by pure altruism. But scratch the surface and what do the people see beneath this layer of generosity? A devious attempt to buy the loyalty – and the votes – of the urban poor. Using EPF money for a political purpose is tantamount to committing a grievous crime against the interests of the workers.

Populist projects

Despite the outcry against the “theft” of public money, the pleas have fallen on deaf ears. It seems likely that the policymakers will go ahead and channel the RM1.5 billion into their pet project on the specious argument that there will be good returns from this investment, which is dubious. The amount may be a drop in the EPF ocean, but it does not give you the slightest right to take away any portion simply because you do not have any claim on it. What belongs to the workers is sacred. No one, not even the most powerful man in the country, can put his fingers in the cash box and run away to finance his projects, big or small. It would be unconscionable and despicable for the government to keep the employees’ money in its pocket.