‘Putrajaya targets study loan borrowers but ignores tycoons’

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KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim criticised the government yesterday over its tough stance on defaulters of National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) loans, saying that the government should instead go after tycoons and businessmen who owe the country billions.

The opposition leader said the government is focusing on youngsters instead of recovering debts and loans from the rich.

“I am upset because the debts owed by 1MBD, carpet dealer Deepak Jaikishan, Perwaja, Tan Sri Tajuddin [Ramli] and some billionaires are not considered a problem.

“But youngsters who owe PTPTN are the core of their discussion and the issue is being brought up again and again,” Anwar said in Parliament yesterday.

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s use of a hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad) to drive home the importance of settling debts was out of context.

“In this context, if the person is in debt due to an unfair system, such as if I am poor and I want to study ... I have no other option but to borrow money while the responsibility to help lies with the government, then there must be a consideration.

“The people mentioned in the hadith are the rich who owe money and make millions [in profit],” said Anwar. He said, in principle, those who owe money need to repay their debts but not to the extent that the poor are burdened.

“They (the government) are very vocal when it comes to regular folks but failed to bring up the debts that have been written off, such as Deepak’s and Perwaja’s,” said Anwar, referring to the country’s largest steelmaker.

Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh recently said PTPTN loan defaulters would be given three months to discuss how to repay their outstanding amount, or their names would be included in the Central Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS).

He said there are those taking advantage of PTPTN’s flexibility by not making any payments at all.

“When we implement the system, we will give three months for the borrowers to discuss and make payments before their names are listed in the CCRIS.” The announcement did not go down well with the students, with activists planning a demonstration. Vocal student activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim said university students are not taking the matter lightly. “We are discussing it. We will definitely protest,” Adam said. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 14, 2014.