PETALING JAYA: More than 99,000 Employee Provident Fund (EPF) contributors are appealing to Putrajaya to allow targeted withdrawals, saying they need the money to pay off outstanding debts.
According to Pertubuhan Gagasan Inovasi Rakyat Malaysia (PGIRM), a civil society group, about 27.4% of the 99,335 individuals have or are on the verge of being evicted from their homes, while 65.8% of them have been blacklisted by financial institutions.
PGIRM president Azmi Mohd Tahir said 83.1% of the 99,335 who are demanding another round of targeted withdrawals from their EPF Account One were aged 40 and above.
The 99,335 came forward to participate in a nationwide survey conducted by PGIRM between May 15 and 29 to ascertain how many EPF contributors need another targeted withdrawal.
Among the details that were collected from this group were the amount and types of their outstanding debts, their financial health, the amount of funds they had in EPF Accounts One and Two, their employment status and number of children.
Azmi said the group was not advocating for another blanket withdrawal scheme similar to the four that occurred from 2020 to 2022 to help Malaysians deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are not saying that 8.1 million contributors need another withdrawal.
“We are saying only 99,335 who are desperate and who have fallen through the cracks need to withdraw from their Account One without any collateral or condition,” Azmi said in a statement yesterday.
“We want to bring this to the government’s attention to help those who are in dire straits because of outstanding loans and incomes that do not match the high cost of living,” he added.
On May 8, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said no more special EPF withdrawals will be allowed despite calls to do so.
EPF members had withdrawn RM145bil from the retirement fund under four separate schemes since 2020 to help households deal with the impact of the pandemic.
These initiatives included the i-Lestari with RM20.8bil in withdrawals by 5.3 million contributors, i-Sinar (RM58.7bil by 6.6 million), i-Citra (RM21.4bil by 5.2 million).
Then in April last year, the Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob administration allowed a special fourth round of withdrawals which were taken up by 6.6 million EPF members who took out RM44.6bil.
The Anwar administration had announced in March that it will not allow anymore EPF withdrawals as the past four schemes had led to the average savings of all EPF account holders dropping by half, from RM16,600 in 2019 to RM8,100 in 2022.
Also, the number of EPF account holders who had less than RM10,000 in retirement savings had risen to 6.7 million as compared to 4.7 million people in 2020.
As a concession, Putrajaya introduced the Financial Support Account Two Scheme (FSA2) where contributors could use the amount in their Account Two to support loan applications from two participating banks.
PGIRM’s Azmi said only 7.3% of the 99,335 in the PGIRM survey had applied for the FSA2, and the rest either did not meet the scheme’s conditions or did not want to be saddled with another bank loan.
At 63.75%, utility bills topped the list of outstanding debts for the respondents, followed by personal loans (51.3%), vehicle loans (46%), rent (37.2%), and repaying money lenders (21.1%).
Azmi said the respondents include those who are middle aged and had lost their jobs, had their incomes slashed due to the pandemic, are unable to get a full time job due to age and/or health, had depleted their life savings during the pandemic, as well as those who seek capital for small businesses.
“PGIRM has a blueprint of all the names of these contributors as well as details of the study, and we will submit them to the Finance Minister so that he can consider approving another withdrawal,” Azmi said.