Mandatory Provident Fund bosses are proposing to let terminally ill patients of working age withdraw money from their pension accounts. They also propose letting retirees withdraw their funds by instalment rather than in one go. The changes, if approved, would be the first significant ones since the MPF scheme was launched in 2000. They were put out for public consultation yesterday. The Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority suggests that people certified by doctors as terminally ill and expected to live only six months to a year be allowed to withdraw their MPF benefits early. Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan welcomed the proposal but said it did not go far enough. 'Those with a serious or chronic illness that prevents them from working should also be allowed to withdraw their MPF benefits,' he said. Everyone earning more than HK$6,500 per month must put 5 per cent of their pay into their MPF account each month, up to a maximum of HK$1,000. Employers match their contribution. Employees may make additional voluntary contributions. By law, a scheme member can only withdraw MPF benefits early if they leave Hong Kong for good, retire early, are ruled incapable of doing any work or have less than HK$5,000 in their account. If a member dies, their family can ask for their funds. Authority non-executive director Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said of the changes: 'For those suffering from a terminal illness, the prospect of providing for an income after retirement might no longer be relevant. Therefore, we propose allowing them to withdraw the money earlier.' On withdrawal by instalment, Yuen said it could provide more incentives for the financial-services industry to develop different products to meet different retirees' needs. Anna Wu Hung-yuk, authority chairman, said the changes were the first of many intended to make the scheme cater better to members' needs. 'While attention was focused on the creation of an administratively reliable and efficient retirement system during the early stages of the MPF system, the review signifies our drive to enhance the system, to put it in tune with the needs of society.' The consultation will end on March 31. The authority hopes to submit recommendations to the government by September.