Monday, October 30, 2017

Minister of Finance confirms that EPF has not confirmed or approved any specific investments amounting to USD3 to 4 bil. in the US, contradicting the Prime Minister's boast to President Trump

The Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak went to the United States (US) last month and wasted no time impressing on President Donald Trump that he is out to boost the US economy.  He said “Number one, we want to help you in terms of strengthening the US economy.”

Among the most controversial and very specific promise by Dato’ Seri Najib was for the Malaysian Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to investment an additional “three to four billion dollars” to “support... infrastructure redevelopment in the United States.”

I had asked in my parliamentary question to the Minister of Finance whether the EPF has already specific projects amounting to “three to four billion dollars” to “support infrastructure redevelopment in the United States”.  I further asked, if yes, how much have been approved.

Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kewangan menyatakan sama ada jawatankuasa Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja (KWSP) telah meluluskan pelaburan sebanyak US$3 sehingga US$4 bilion bagi tujuan menyokong pembangunan semula infrastruktur di Amerika Syarikat.  Jika ada, apakah nilai pelaburan-pelaburan spesifik ini yang telah diluluskan.

In a relatively lengthy reply received from the Minister of Finance dated 25 October (attached), he effectively confirmed that EPF has made no such specific decision to invest “three to four billion dollars” to “support infrastructure redevelopment in the United States”.

The reply stated that every EPF investment is evaluated on a case by case basis on strict, disciplined and diligent criteria.

The reply did try to play down the Prime Minister’s promises to the American President by claiming that what he said was “consistent with the long term strategy of the EPF to increase its overseas investment, particularly in property and infrastructure”.  The Minister of Finance also tried to justify property and infratructure projects are relatively low-risk investment providing a relatively good rate of return.

However, my question has absolutely nothing to do with what forms of investment provides better or safer returns.  My question is specifically on whether EPF has already decided to make the specific US$3 billion, possibly up to US$4 billion of investment to “support… infrastructure redevelopment in the United States.”

Malaysians are relieved that the EPF will not be making any rash investments in the United States, more so inexplicably to “support… infrastructure redevelopment in the United States”.  It is not our job to “make America great again”.

We have no objections to EPF investment a proportion of its funds overseas, as long as the risks involved are properly mitigated and the investments are evaluated on strict and diligent criteria.

However, the above proved that our Prime Minister boasted empty promises to the American President.  The question then is, why did Dato’ Seri Najib Razak have to go out of his way to impress the Trump administration?

The answer appears to be obvious, from his stay the the Trump Hotel to his boasts at the White House, the Prime Minister pulled out all stops to curry favour the American President in order to hope that the United States government will go easy on the single largest anti-kleptocracy money laundering seizure in the country.

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