LETTER | Absurd to not use KWAN funds for Covid-19 vaccines

Edmund Loh


LETTER | Recently, many have expressed concerns over the government's decision to tap into the National Trust Fund (KWAN) for purchasing Covid-19 vaccines and related procurement. At a time when Parliament is not in session due to the Emergency, such concerns are possibly borne of fears over lack of check-and-balances over the use of public funds.

Some also have questioned the need for the government to dip into a fund specifically set up for the benefit of future generations. They argue that even during the 1998 or 2008 financial crises, the government did not resort to tapping into KWAN savings, said to be worth RM16.9 billion now.

By "raiding" the funds now, critics say the younger generations would be denied financial safety nets in the future. They also argue that Parliament had approved RM3 billion to purchase Covid-19 vaccines under Budget 2021 and questioned the need for additional funding.

The question is, if not now, then when is a good time to use the funds? If KWAN was specifically set up for the benefit of future generations, doesn't the Covid-19 pandemic warrant the use of the money?

We are living in one of the most perilous periods in the country's history, with an unprecedented global pandemic upending lives like never before. Lives and livelihoods have been lost, as not just Malaysia, but governments the world over struggle to manage the healthcare crisis that has also thrown many economies into a tailspin.

If this is not a good enough reason for dipping into the funds, can critics kindly clarify under what circumstances can we use it? Is our situation not dire enough?

In the past, it was reported that RM42 million of KWAN funds was used for the preservation of the wetlands in Putrajaya. The funds also went into the purchase of a stake in Putrajaya Holdings, the master developer of the federal administrative capital.

Are critics saying that it is alright to use KWAN's funds to preserve wetlands and hold equity in the company but not to buy vaccines and other related purchases that can save lives and help end the pandemic so that some "normalcy" can return? The logic is absurd and asinine.

When Budget 2021 was tabled last year, critics had accused the government of not allocating enough to combat Covid-19. Yet today, the same group of people are kicking up a fuss over plans to boost the budget to purchase vaccines.

Under the amended Section 6 of the Emergency (National Trust Fund) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, KWAN funds can now be used for the “procurement of vaccines and any expenditure incurred in relation to the vaccines for an epidemic of any infectious disease as specified under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988”.

This means the funds can be used only for the purchase of vaccines and vaccine-related expenditure, so the argument about the government abusing KWAN for other purposes does not hold water.

In fact, it makes the process to purchase the vaccines much faster, which will only expedite the return to "normalcy" as we knew it. Now is the time to spend our savings in KWAN, because our condition is dire enough.

Claiming otherwise is to deny reality and defeats the purpose of our disciplined and consistent "rainy day" savings over the years.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.