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,Economist Dr Geoffrey Williams said EPF depositors should brace for a lower return this year, as the high dividend of 2021 is unlikely to be repeated.

PETALING JAYA: The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is off to a bad start in 2022 after its investment income tumbled by nearly 18% year-on-year in the first quarter (1Q).

With the global stock market meltdown building up, EPF could be heading towards another round of disappointing performance in the second quarter.

Under such circumstances, it would be a tall order for the provident fund, which is affected by withdrawals of over RM140bil, to deliver the same level of dividend it did in 2021 to its depositors this year.

In 2021, the EPF announced a dividend payout of 6.1% for conventional savings with a total payout of RM50.45bil, exceeding the 5.45% dividend declared during the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

As for syariah savings, a dividend of 5.65% was announced, surpassing the 5% declared in 2019.

Economist Dr Geoffrey Williams said EPF depositors should brace for a lower return this year, as the high dividend of 2021 is unlikely to be repeated.

Economist Dr Geoffrey Williams said EPF depositors should brace for a lower return this year, as the high dividend of 2021 is unlikely to be repeated.

Williams, who is a professor at the Malaysia University of Science and Technology told StarBiz that EPF performance in 1Q of 2022 was ”not expected but also not surprising.”

“This was because of the general market turbulence during the first quarter and high inflation overseas where EPF generates a lot of its income from. There are also concerns about inflation, growth and higher interest rates in the international markets.

The rebound in markets in 2021 was quite strong and had helped the overall dividend performance. But growth is already being downgraded across the world so investment returns are likely to be lower this year,” he said.

In the past six months, especially in the April to June 2022 period, global stock markets have turned more turbulent.

The MSCI World Index declined by 5.5% in 1Q, and the index took a turn for the worst in the second quarter, after it plunged by 18.3% in 2Q until June 20.

With a total of 44% of EPF’s investment assets being positioned in equities, concerns arose whether there would be a massive drop in income for the EPF.

The fact that the EPF undertook a write-down of RM1.09bil in 1Q of 2022 for listed equities – almost equivalent to the write-down of RM1.15bil done for 2021 – is likely a sign of deterioration in investment performance.

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