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,— AZMAN GHANI/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Economists expect the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to distribute a lower dividend rate for 2022 following a weaker total investment income recorded in the first quarter ended March 31, 2022 (Q1 2022).

The pension fund announced today that its total investment income had slipped to RM15.85 billion in Q1 2022, down from RM19.29 billion in Q1 2021, due to a significant decline in worldwide markets.

ALSO READ: EPF records lower gross investment income of RM15.85bil for Q1 2022

"EPF’s dividend rate is expected to fall in tandem with lower investment income,” Sunway University economics professor Yeah Kim Leng told Bernama when contacted.

Last year, EPF -- one of the oldest and largest retirement funds in the world -- announced a dividend rate of 6.10 per cent for conventional savings and 5.65 per cent for Shariah savings.

Yeah said the Russian-Ukraine conflict is likely to be prolonged, and inflation and interest rate hikes, such as the 75 basis points hike by the United States (US) Federal Reserves, are causing global growth expectations to be revised downwards.

Moreover, he said recession risk is also being flagged as the US struggles to tame high inflation.

ALSO READ: Experts fear another EPF withdrawal will lead to inflation

"If it can navigate a soft landing, and China is able to resume normal activities amid its zero-COVID policy, we may see investment income holding up to enable a decent dividend, which most likely will be lower than the previous year,” he said.

Similarly, Malaysia University of Science and Technology (MUST) economics professor Geoffrey Williams said he did not expect the high dividend for 2021 to be repeated in 2022, as this had been signalled by the EPF due to the general investment environment.

Last year, the overall EPF dividend performance was supported by a strong rebound in the equity markets, he said.

"But 2022 growth is already being downgraded across the world, so investment returns are likely to be lower,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, Yeah said that the weaker Q1 performance was expected due to the turbulence in the global financial, food and energy markets caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"Financial markets were also roiled by strong increases in inflation and interest rate hike expectations,” he said.

Williams, however, noted that the Q1 outcome was not expected but also not surprising owing to the general market turbulence during the quarter under review.

As at Dec 31, 2021, EPF’s total investment income rose six per cent to RM67.06 billion from RM63.45 billion in 2020, driven by the progressive recovery of equity markets and most asset classes amid the global rebound. - Bernama


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