On the face of it, it may look like a normal opposition exercise where the government and key government institutions are being attacked, to disturb and distract the smooth functioning of the economy.
However, certain connected factors now seem to be emerging, which when put together, suggests that the effort may be linked to a broader strategy of privatising the EPF, and handing over of the management of EPF funds to private parties.
A recent article by a well-known economist had pointed out, that for years, there has been a demand that the EPF, being the largest source of funds in the country, should invest in the stock market. Perhaps in response to those regular calls and in keeping with EPF's evolving investment strategy,there have been investments made by the EPF in the stock market since the early 2000's.
From about 2009, the pace of these investments in the stock market had accelerated, and it is seen that the EPF has now built up a sizeable portfolio with considerable long term value, although prices may be depressed at the current time.
Whilst this gradual accumulation of shares by the EPF was taking place, some international fund managers, may have got wind of new opportunities of managing a fund of this size and nature, and therefore quite naturally,some of them have been known to be lobbying in various informal groups to obtain a piece of this investment action.
However such a "hand over" of the investment function by the EPF to outside foreign parties did not seem to be forthcoming, and the EPF appeared to be quite content to handle its own investments.
As a result, a new strategy seems to have been developed during the past year or so, by some of these interested parties to wrest control the EPF funds from the Monetary Board and entrust the funds to outsourced private sector parties, for management.
This new strategy seems to involve an informal lobby by a few connected persons in certain business circles, while simultaneously a parallel cry that the EPF is mismanaging its funds is being raised by a vociferous group led by an Opposition MP closely connected to the US.
The fact that the EPF has been delivering substantial returns, which have been well over the rate of inflation and much higher than that credited by other similar funds during the past five years, has been conveniently ignored, and these groups have since been relentlessly pursuing their goal of discrediting the EPF. In the meantime, around September 2011, a well-known US based consultancy firm, Mckinsy and Co. had been given a consultancy assignment, said to be worth over Rs.150m by the Colombo Stock Exchange, to propose strategies to broaden the retail participation in capital markets and build a stronger unit trust industry. This consulting firm has produced an action plan in December 2011 which sets out what they call "three key transformational themes".
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the most important theme set out by them is to outsource the current in-house portfolio management of the EPF and ETF to private sector unit trusts.
Although this revolutionary idea has been mooted rather openly by a well-known consulting firm, it is likely that those who were seeking this outcome would have realised that this so called transformation was not going to take place easily, given the stance of the present Government.
In that background, those who were plotting such a move behind the scenes,may have come to the conclusion that this transformation as they call it, could take place only if sufficient pressure was brought upon the Government and the Monetary Board,through a systematic allegation of mismanagement of EPF funds, coupled with a call for a change in management by influential agencies.
That may perhaps explain why, after the report of Mckinsy and Co. was issued in December 2011, the attacks on EPF have been stepped up, with the effort being spearheaded by the US linked, anti-China, Opposition MP.
The suspicion that has now arisen is, as to whether these constant attacks on the EPF are a part of a broader plan set in motion by certain foreign interests to wrest control of the largest Fund that is owned by the people of this country, which accounts for about 20 percent of the country's financial sector.
Another factor that may merit consideration is that the management fee which is normally charged by a unit trust or a fund management company to manage a fund like the EPF is around 2 percent of the fund value. On that basis, since the value of the EPF is now known to be over Rs.1,000 billion, those who are planning this move may also be having visions of pocketing around Rs.20b or $ 150m per annum, as their fees, as well. Needless to say, those who may have laid plans for an exercise of this nature, would not hesitate to handsomely compensate any persons who engineer such a lucrative deal for them.
That is why,j just like terrorist links were investigated, this type of suspected underhand economic attack must now be seriously inquired into, so as to ascertain whether there is a connection between the attacks on the EPF and the attempt to outsource the management of EPF funds to private parties.
In these circumstances, all stakeholders must now be highly vigilant about the efforts of these vociferous persons who may be the cat's paw to carry out a sinister contract to transfer control of one of the largest national assets that has been carefully safeguarded for over 50 years, to private parties with vested interests.