KUCHING: Literature can significantly influence young minds by instilling the norms and mindsets necessary to address issues of sustainability, health and rights in the future, said Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said while these issues can be complex, children’s literature has tremendous potential to nurture young minds appropriately by providing early and sustained exposure to these topics.

“By immersing themselves in narratives about the balance of nature, children will develop a deep sense of responsibility towards our planet.

“Reading stories featuring diverse characters of different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives, children develop the empathy, compassion and understanding upon which our democracy relies,” he said in his speech for the ‘Jom Kita Bincang: Sustainability, Health, and Social Issues in Sarawak’ programme here today.

His speech for the programme, organised by the Embassy of Sweden in Kuala Lumpur, was delivered by Sarawak Deputy Premier Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian.

Abang Johari emphasised the need to strengthen children’s reading skills, as reading proficiency is declining in many countries, a situation that needs to be addressed.

“Reading is the portal to a wider world, to education, progress and participation in the scientific, political and cultural efforts in order for our country to move forward. With good reading skills comes also the ability to follow and participate in the democratic debate,” he said.

He said children’s literature also fosters bonds not only between children and their parents but also among other like-minded members of society, helping children reach higher intellectual levels.

Commending the Swedish Embassy and its Ambassador, Dr. Joachim Bergström, for including the Sarawak capital as one of the venues for the series, he said the launch of a book teaching children about rare health conditions as another noteworthy activity in the programme.

“Exchanging ideas and working together is always important. Together, we can make sure that every page turned in a children’s book moves us towards a brighter, more sustainable, healthy and more democratic future,” he said.KUALA LUMPUR: Withdrawals from the Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) Account 3 will not affect the retirement fund’s investment strategy, as they will be carried out in controlled amounts and within an organised framework, said chief executive officer Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn.

He emphasised that the EPF has anticipated a withdrawal of up to RM25 billion from Account 3 in the first year, followed by an estimated RM5 billion in the subsequent year.

“The EPF’s overall investment assets stand at RM1.2 trillion, so these withdrawals are actually manageable, predictable and not a cause for concern,” he said, noting that this was unlike the previous withdrawals where EPF members had unexpectedly taken out RM145 billion from the fund.

He said this during the ‘Fireside Chat 2’ discussion session, held in conjunction with the Sasana Symposium 2024 organised by Bank Negara Malaysia.

Moderated by Nurhisham Hussein, senior director of economics and finance at the Prime Minister’s office, the discussion centred around retirement savings.

The EPF has reportedly approved 3.04 million applications to withdraw a total of RM5.52 billion from Account 3 as of May 22, raising concerns about a potential shift in the fund’s investment portfolio to highly liquid assets in order to facilitate withdrawals.

This, in turn, would impact the fund’s investment returns, as highly liquid assets frequently generate low returns.

Elaborating on EPF’s investment strategy, Ahmad Zulqarnain said there would be a reallocation of low risk assets to high risk assets in the domestic market, but this would be done in a prudent manner.

“Infrastructure in the domestic market (is something that we can look into), and we’re relatively optimistic at the way things are evolving right now.

“Certain segments like data centres and industrial logistics are actually in a very strong growth phase and putting capital here will give you a decent amount (of returns), same goes to the semiconductor, electrical and electronics products,” he added.

The EPF achieved a growth of of 4.2 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter ended March 31, 2024, and maintained its optimistic outlook for both the domestic and the global economy.