PETALING JAYA: The government should look at other ways of helping the people deal with the rising cost of living rather than allow them to make another withdrawal from their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings, said economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam.

He said the government needs to think out of the box instead of turning to EPF to deal with the issues faced by the people.

“For example, the government can set up lunch and dinner hubs in every district to help those who find it hard to deal with the increasing cost of living,” he told theSun.

He was commenting on Umno Youth chief Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki who said while he was one of the proponents who previously supported the special EPF withdrawal, it is not currently an option to address the financial woes caused by the rising cost of living, and that other solutions ought to be found.

Ramon said even if the government wants to turn to EPF, it must only allow withdrawals by those who need it, and not everyone.

“Even those who are in desperate need of money may also end up using it for different purposes than what they need it for,” said the chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute.

He added that by cutting down on government wastage, the extra funds could be used to help the poor and needy.

Ramon said whatever decision the government makes to help the people overcome their financial problems, it must be aimed at helping those who truly deserve it and not implemented across
the board.

Since 2020, the government has announced three special EPF withdrawal schemes – i-Lestari, i-Sinar and i-Citra – with a total of RM101 billion withdrawn. In addition, another RM10,000 special withdrawal was allowed in March.

EPF statistics revealed that some 6.1 million contributors have retirement savings of less than RM10,000 in their accounts, of which 3.6 million households have less than RM1,000.

Former International Trade and Industry minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said contributions to EPF are savings for the future.

“When they are allowed to withdraw funds before retirement, the government is creating a group of Malaysians who would have little or practically nothing when they retire, with no other source of income. A new group below the poverty line would be created.

“What is needed now is a comprehensive package of policy measures.”

Rafidah said for crisis management, it was essential to understand the trigger of the crisis.

“Based upon that, and a comprehensive understanding of the economic and socioeconomic scenario, we need to draw up appropriate, effective and targeted policy measures, and not have a
one-policy-fits-all approach.

“A responsible government must ensure the measures are fair and equitable, giving priority to the neediest,” she added.

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