Malaysia's prime minister said Wednesday that workers contributing to the country's Employees Provident Fund, the 1.01 trillion ringgit ($240.7 billion) backbone of Malaysia's retirement system, can withdraw up to 10,000 ringgit from their defined contribution accounts if needed to cope with continued economic hardship.
Despite combined withdrawals of more than 100 billion ringgit by 7.34 million contributors across the first three extraordinary withdrawal programs, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob, noted in a statement Wednesday that there are still families in Malaysia yet to recover economically from the effects of the pandemic.
The prime minister conceded that balancing the "needs of the day" with the needs of Malaysians to build up savings for retirement was a difficult decision, and called on EPF participants to only take advantage of the new program if absolutely necessary.
In a separate announcement Wednesday, the EPF — citing the prime minister's announcement — said it will introduce a special withdrawal facility of 10,000 ringgit "for EPF members who remain financially impacted by the pandemic," with applications accepted starting on April 1.
Earlier this month, the EPF announced that for calendar year 2021, the value of its investment portfolio edged up 0.8% to 1.01 trillion ringgit despite more than 100 billion ringgit of emergency withdrawals over the previous two years. Amir Hamzah Azizan, the fund's CEO, said the EPF had to make a priority of helping people "recoup the savings they've withdrawn."
In its Wednesday news release, the EPF said with more people having returned to work, "this should be the last facility allowed under the special withdrawal initiative."
"The EPF would like to reiterate its concerns around members' retirement adequacy and hopes this will be a precursor towards the rebuilding of retirement savings and reforming of the nation's social security system," the news release said.