PM Najib must explain why EPF money is used to support America’s redevelopment instead of Malaysia’s own development

KUALA LUMPUR: A Universiti Malaya professor has expressed surprise over Prime Minister Najib Razak’s decision to invest multi-billion ringgit of Employees Provident Fund (EPF) money to support America’s infrastructure redevelopment programme.

Business and economy professor Mohd Nazari Ismail said Najib’s announcement was hard to understand as he should prioritise the country’s infrastructure development instead of seemingly trying to please the Donald Trump administration.

“I find it very strange and difficult to understand. We should prioritise infrastructure development of our country first,” he told Berita Daily today.

“Secondly, another criterion for investment should be the return on investment. If the return is good, then the US will have no problem attracting investments from their own pension funds,” he said.

Nazari said the fact that the US couldn’t get investments showed that it would not be a good venture for the EPF.

“The criteria of investments are unclear. Profit seems not a priority. It seems we are trying to please President Trump using EPF money and that is not fair to EPF depositors,” he said.

Najib met President Trump during a working visit to the US yesterday.

Najib announced in Washington yesterday that Malaysia would invest US$3 billion to US$4 billion to support America’s infrastructure redevelopment, adding that the government will also increase the amount of investment by Khazanah in Silicon Valley.

The prime minister said that pension fund EPF has a big sum of capital to be exported, and that it has invested close to US$7 billion in terms of equity in the US and intended to invest an additional US$3 billion to US$4 billion to support US’ infrastructure re-development.

Nazari also expressed concern on Najib’s plan to increase Khazanah’s investment in Silicon Valley and cautioned that Khazanah should stick to its strict investment policy.

“Khazanah has been very careful in making investments in the past. They have strict criteria for their investments which are all over the world, including in the US. As long as the same criteria are used, then it should be OK. But I really hope the same criteria are used and not because of the desire to please the President of the US.

“I am a bit concerned about the plan to invest in the US, especially using EPF money to help pay for US infrastructure developments. I hope the whole thing can be explained to the people in a very transparent manner so that the interest of our country comes first,” he added.

Invest locally

Amanah’s International Bureau chairman Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah echoed Nazari’s sentiment, saying that Najib should have invested in Malaysia instead of the US.

The Kuala Terengganu MP slammed Najib for what he dubbed as an effort to save his own skin by any means necessary.

“He borrowed money from China and gives our money away to US. He is trying to please Donald Trump like how he did with Saudi Arabia. He supported the war in Yemen.

“Now with the US he gives away our money to save his own skin. What is the purpose of him wanting to support America’s infrastructure redevelopment? Why can’t he do it in Malaysia. This is unacceptable,” said Raja Kamarul.

Meanwhile, economist Ramon Navaratnam said Najib must explain his proposal to the people as the money to be used for the investment belongs to the masses.

He added that although there are possibilities that the investment could generate returns, Najib must not take things for granted.

“Firstly, what kind of investment is he looking at in the US? He must be careful and must not take things for granted although the possibilities of making money are there.

“It is preferable to invest at home instead of abroad, that is for sure. One thing to avoid is foreign debt and we do not want that to add to our existing debt. He must tell the people about his plan because EPF is the people’s money,” he said.

Ramon added that the biggest question that Najib has to answer is why the decision was made suddenly.

“He must tell the people because we feel uneasy. We are not a capital-rich country. The people have the right to know and Najib is accountable to the people,” said the veteran economist.

Azmin shocked

Selangor Menteri Besar and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali said he was shocked by Najib’s announcement that Malaysia will be investing as much as US$24 billion (RM100 billion) into the United States.

“This investment is purportedly to ‘strengthen the US economy’ at a time when our economy is crying out for greater investment, quite apart from the mystery as to why Malaysia needs to help out the world’s largest economy,” he said in a statement.

“Is the PM telling us that helping the United States build infrastructure is more important than helping Sabah and Sarawak build roads and water pipes?”

He added that the money held by the EPF was money held in trust for the rakyat and cannot be used indiscriminately.

“We understand that it is Najib’s choice that he meets with US President Donald Trump but leaders cannot mortgage the nation’s economic wellbeing for a photo opportunity,” he said.

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Khazanah, EPF to expand investments in US