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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Woes of an ex-con wanting to go legit


S Balachandran is at his wits end after banks and government agencies turn down loan applications for his agricultural business.
KUALA LUMPUR: An ex-convict desiring to turn over a new leaf is finding it hard to get loans from government agencies for his agricultural business.
Initially, 43-year-old S Balachandran approached banks for loans to start the agricultural business but was rejected because he was blacklisted for failure to settle his credit card loans
Balachandran, from Taiping, Perak, said he was disappointed that even his loan applications to several government agencies were thrown out due to the blacklist.
“I was imprisoned in 1998 and released in 2009 and by that time I was already hitting 40…and I had difficulty landing jobs.
“I then decided to venture into the agriculture business after being impressed by the “Agriculture is Business” campaign run by the Perak state government, he said.
“I got a lease for a 10-acre plot of land and planted chilies. I mortgaged my house. My family members chipped in some money. In total I spent about RM150,000 for the business.
“I need another RM50,000 to switch to an automated sprinkler system to water the land as it will quicker and also yield more income. Right now I draw water from a pipe using buckets.
“At the present time, my income is less than my expenditure,” said Balachandran.
Balachandran said although he could understand why banks rejected his loan applications, he could not come to grips on why government agencies were doing the same.
“I took the matter up to the Menteri Besar (Zambry Abdul Kadir) and received a call from his special officer S Veerasingam who instructed me to attend a briefing by the Special Secretariat for the Empowerment of Indian Entrepreneurs (SEED).
“The meeting was held on Sept 9, where more than 500 people turned up. The meeting was conducted by Dr AT Kumarajah who talked only on the issue of those on blackslists.
“He offered no solutions and to my dismay, he said we still have to follow the normal procedures in applying for loans from banks.
“Here we are asking the government’s help after being rejected by the banks and he’s telling to follow procdures. What’s the point of have meetings and telling us to go back to the banks?
“In my case, Kumarajah promised to look into it personally. But, it has already been three weeks and he doesn’t even pick up my phone calls,” said.
Balachandran said he faced the same fate when he approached MyNadi, an non-governmental organisations set up to help and assist Indian businessmen.
“They visited my farm and promised to sort out my problem. But, it has been already two months and so far no signal from their side,” he added.
Balachandran said he was also disappointed with Tekun Nasional as he was only allowed to borrow RM9,000 when he had applied for a RM30,000 loan.
“I’m angry and frustrated. I work hard, want to lead a clean life. My friends who are out of prison are living a lavish life doing unlawful things.
“I made a mistake and landed in jail. But now I want to lead a new life. But I’m tired of trying…I don’t know how long I can hold on,” he added.

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