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Friday, May 31, 2019

No need to wait any more, impose new study loan rules now

If I am not mistaken, I have written on issues confronting the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) at least three times already. Over this period, PTPTN has continued to procrastinate and waver like a rudderless sampan in the ocean.
For how long more does Wan Saiful Wan Jan, PTPTN’s head, want to wait? What is he waiting for? Which stakeholders has he not engaged enough?
If we are incapable or unwilling to make a hard decision, let’s not find excuses and go on talking about it. Is this not what PTPTN is doing right now? Another six months or one year and soon the next election will be around the corner.
It must be paradoxical if we keep asking the recipients of subsidies whether they would like these to continue. Similarly, I think it is irrational to ask loan defaulters whether they should face tougher action for refusing to honour their obligations.
Look, the government must make decisions based on reason and rationality, not popularity and appeasement.
Of course, it is not easy to please everyone. That is why we need a government that is able to make hard decisions by balancing the conflicting demands of various interest groups and also by ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of the government is maintained.
We are in the digital age. I see no reason why PTPTN must make policies that uniformly apply to all loan borrowers or defaulters. It is time to “individualise” all borrowers and apply recovery measures based on the profiles and needs of each borrower.
A blanket travel ban on all defaulters is harsh because some are really in dire straits due to unemployment, illness or other hardship. But PTPTN can always examine the profile and updated information of each borrower.
Borrowers earning higher income and with lighter financial commitments can always be asked to repay more. If they refuse, I am sure tougher measures can be applied without triggering sympathy from others. On the other hand, those earning less should be allowed to repay less.
Let’s “individualise” the repayment of all borrowers by leveraging on the power of computers and information technology. PTPTN should stop wasting more time debating blanket policies because no two borrowers and defaulters are the same.
My concern is whether PTPTN has all this information at its disposal?
Sometimes I doubt it although I wish to be proven wrong.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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