Cabraal defends and commends EPF; says untrue allegations must stop

Wednesday, 8 January 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal last week defended and commended the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for its growth, prudent fund management and high returns offered and called to an end to untrue allegations from politicians. During his presentation of the 2014 Road Map of the Central Bank, Cabraal said a comparison of the EPF with other managed funds confirm no other fund has been able to generate similar returns as done by the EPF managed by the Central Bank. He said EPF’s rate of return to be credited to members for 2013 is likely to be between 10.8% and 11.3%. Total income of the Fund grew by 12% to Rs. 93.5 billion in the first nine months of 2013. Given the 300% increase in the size of the fund between 2006 and 2013 to be well over Rs. 1.25 trillion as well as above highest returns, Cabraa said: “CB is actually proud of EPF.” In that context, CB Chief lamented that it was “sad and unfortunate” that certain politician continue in their efforts to make “blatantly untrue allegations” against the management of EPF by the Central Bank. “As it has been pointed out in several occasions and in several recent reports, it is likely that these allegations are made with the ulterior motive of privatising the fund management of EPF by making serious allegations of impropriety against the officials. “The EPF reiterates that as a long term fund its rates of return have been consistently higher than inflation as well of rates of its competitors. So we can be judged by the returns that have been given and the way the fund has been managed. “I think these kinds of vituperative comments sometimes hurt hard working and professional officials and it is my duty as the Central Bank Governor being responsible overall to say that EPF is being managed well and we believe these types of efforts should now stop,” Cabraal said during the presentation of the CB Road Map for 2014 and beyond. UNP MP and its Chief Spokesman on the economy Dr. Harsha de Silva last month proposed in Parliament that the Government establish the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) as a detached institution from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to eliminate the conflicts of interest and to make prudent investment decisions. This he said because substantial losses made in questionable listed equities. He estimates the loss at Rs. 8.9 billion on the basis of fall in the value of share prices during the past 14 months. “The only way to correct the conflict of interest is to establish the EPF as a separate body but with 100% ownership kept with the Government. The proposed institution can be administered by the Minister of Finance or Minister of Labour. But maximum returns due for EPF funds are not reachable by keeping it under CBSL,” MP de Silva said. Governor Cabraal noted that there are no institutions which will find all of its investments have gone right but one needs to assess the overall performance of the Fund and returns. At the 2014 Roadmap presentation Governor also said with easing monetary conditions, fiscal consolidation and low volatility of inflation, market interest rates are expected to remain low, thereby providing a challenging environment for the EPF to generate high returns in the medium to long term. “Accordingly, the EPF will systematically continue to diversify its investment portfolio in order to provide better returns to its members,” Cabraal said. Such diversification strategy, according to him, will include: Diversification into new instruments; Investments in foreign currency denominated instruments; and Increase participation in secondary market activities. “Fund management efficiency will be increased with in-depth analysis of investments, in compliance with the internal rules and improved risk management,” Governor added. EPF will also continue to improve its services to enhance efficiency, thereby providing a better service to its members and employer firms. Registration of all employers who have more than 50 employees will receive the member contributions and details through e-media. Nearly 80% of its 2.3 million members will be covered by this scheme and this initiative will also help to improve the Doing Business ranking of Sri Lanka, Cabraal said. The EPF will also establish an Electronic Data Base Management System and an e-record room by replacing the existing master files by Q2 2014 with electronic records.