PETALING JAYA,Nov 16: The finance ministry and former prime minister Najib Razak were engaged in a skirmish tonight over pension fund withdrawals, with Najib pointing out inaccuracies in the minister’s postings on Facebook, which then disappeared for two hours and reappeared in an updated form.

The earlier posting by the ministry, in the form of questions and answers about Australia’s approval of pension fund withdrawals, appeared to have been blanked out soon after Najib said the posting was riddled with inaccuracies.

In his posting at about 9pm tonight, Najib listed out the differences between Malaysia’s Covid-19 relief scheme and the Australian scheme, which provides for a lump-sum withdrawal of up to A$20,000 for those who have suffered a 20% loss of income.

He included screenshots of the ministry posting, and a link to the Facebook page. However, the link returned an error message, that “This content isn’t available at the moment” because either the privacy settings were changed or the posting had been deleted.

The posting re-appeared on the ministry’s Facebook page shortly after 11pm, saying “Update on enquiries via Facebook asking Why does Australia Allow Member Retirement Savings Withdrawal?”

The posting contained a series of questions and answers about the Australian withdrawal scheme. Najib has been among those pressing the finance ministry to allow lump-sum withdrawals from EPF Account 1, which comprises the pension fund savings of EPF contributors.

He has said a withdrawal of RM10,000 would be better than the current plan to allow those who lost their jobs to withdraw RM500 a month for a year. However, finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz has said that the government was open to allowing a greater number of contributors to make withdrawals from the account.

Najib said tonight that the Australian scheme entailed withdrawals from the superannuation schemes that provide retirement savings of Australian citizens. Najib said the schemes were private pension funds, unlike EPF which is a government body.

He said the governments of the United States and Britain had also amended their rules about pension fund withdrawals, in the face of the hardships brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Similar measures had also been taken by Peru and Chile, he said.

Najib also challenged the EPF to make comparisons between its scheme and those of the other four countries.


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