New PTPTN repayment scheme’s good — ingrains the will to pay back

The new repayment scheme for National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) borrowers seems to smack of robbing the rich to give to the poor. The scheme heavily penalises higher earning borrowers but lets off the lower earning borrowers.

Under the new repayment scheme, the monthly salary deductions range from 2% to 15%. Those who earn less than RM2000 don’t pay back. The deductions are applicable to those earning RM2000 and more. Those earning RM2000 a month will have to pay RM40 when compared to those earning RM8000 and above who will have to pay RM1,200 or more.

The deductions would be a major adjustment to those in the higher income brackets. A deduction of RM1,200 or more is a large cut in disposable income, especially in the urban areas where the high cost of living would result in a significant drop in the standard of living.

For those who worked hard to reach comfortable income brackets, such a high deduction is understandably frustrating, especially when they have been consistently paying back.

The latest report is that the scheme has been postponed for review. However, I believe the underlying principle of the scheme is laudable as it ensures repayment and those eligible to pay won’t get off not paying!

However, a rethink is necessary to ensure that all borrowers pay. I think even those who earn less than RM2000 should also be expected to repay their loans. It inculcates the mental discipline of always paying or giving back what you borrow or take out as a loan. Otherwise, it is just as good as stealing!

And, Malaysians need to learn that you can’t justify stealing — or whatever other names you call it — just because as a borrower you can’t afford it or as a lender you are helping the poor. We should develop a mentality that whenever we take something on loan, we must always give back. When that quality is ingrained in our mental make-up, we will always honour our word to pay back.

As we determine to pay back, we will probably become resourceful in generating more income so that we can honour our commitment to pay back. In the process, we learn how to manage our resources and prove we can be trusted with the resources put in our hands. That’s a mentality that needs to become part of the national consciousness.

So, I fully support PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan’s repayment scheme for PTPTN borrowers. But, I agree, a review is necessary so that everyone who borrows pays back and at a rate that they can afford.

The same scheme may be used but including those earning less than RM2000, reducing the percentage of deductions for the higher income earners and extending the repayment period. Perhaps a flat rate of a 5% monthly deduction may be better for the higher income earners. For someone earning RM8000, that would still be a loss of RM400 monthly, but maybe more acceptable.

It is a good scheme; the rates, perhaps, need to be adjusted so that it is not a painful loss for the higher earning borrowers.

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Tis’ the season to be jolly … and keep temperatures down!

December is here! It’s the end of the year, the holidays have begun and Christmas is just round the corner. Folks, this is the month to let your hair down, have fun, enjoy one another and party a little!

So, if you notice that the temperatures are rising, go to the mall, listen to the non-stop playing of Christmas songs, stand next to a Christmas tree, be dazzled by the decor, then, go to a nearby shop and have a drink — give retailers some business! — and take some friends with you!

What with the scheduled Dec 8 rally to “celebrate” the cancellation of the government’s ratification of Icerd (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) and the Seafield clashes, I think this is a good season to simmer down and make peace with one another.

What’s the point of a Dec 8 rally when it’s only a political gimmick? It benefits no one except in raising temperatures and getting brownie points from those who don’t want to change and move forward.

What’s the point of getting racial over the Seafield clashes when it was an isolated incident involving a temple and a (or a few) developers over its land? It benefits no one except those who want to turn it into a racial issue and disrupt the peace and harmony that we want preserved so that we can move forward as a progressive nation.

Tis’ the season to be jolly! So, let’s get into the spirit of the season and welcome all to take a break from the harsh realities of life. The Christmas season is not exclusive, it is inclusive. All can celebrate, whether or not you believe in our faith.

Visit the malls, join Christians as they celebrate. Churches usually have many programmes for members and their families and friends.

One event that non-Christians can attend is the Christmas celebration that City Revival Church is organising on Sunday, Dec 16 at the Holiday Villa,  Subang Jaya. There will be a charity bazaar and a concert in aid of its two orphanages.

The concert, starting at 7pm, will feature saxophonist Brad White (American) who was nominated twice for the Grammy awards. The concert will also feature our very own illusionist Anslem Roy. The children from the orphanages will also give a presentation. The concert is free but an offering bag will be passed around for donations. The charity bazaar opens at 5.30pm.

Calvary Church (the church I attend) will also have its Christmas services on Dec 22 at Damansara Heights and the next day at the Calvary Convention Centre in Bukit Jalil.

There will be worshipful singing and dancing and you can expect to enjoy it! The service on Sunday at Bukit Jalil will be followed by a Christmas fest of stalls and food trucks.

Like the above, the church near you will have something for you, your family and friends, whether you are a Christian or not.

So, let’s spread the Christmas cheer and keep people happy and at peace!

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It’s time opposition MPs stopped politicking and get to work!

Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah’s Maulidur Rasul (Prophet Mohammad’s birthday) address last Tuesday should have jolted a number of our leaders. His message was a clear indictment of the scourge of corrupt leaders and how it would destroy the country.

Without mincing his words, Sultan Nazrin, who is also the Perak Sultan, said that leaders who lack integrity will cause the people to suffer and that they would rush to accumulate wealth through dishonourable and dubious means.

In exposing corrupt leaders he put all such leaders, whether they are politicians or government ministers or, perhaps, even the Sultans, in a spot. He mentioned no one specifically but we know who these leaders are because their actions are public knowledge.

I hope corrupt leaders would see themselves in the picture of the corrupt leader the Sultan described and seek to change. Unfortunately, many leaders just can’t see their wrongs and cannot admit or face up to the fact that their actions are actually wrongdoings.

Sultan Nazrin should have touched on that problem, too. How so many leaders are in denial, pass the buck to others and refuse to assume responsibility for their actions and the actions of their staff.

Unfortunately, such leaders seem to be continuing in the “old style” of playing politics and creating a ruckus. They don’t or as yet haven’t brought their concerns up to the state legislative assembly or Parliament to thrash out the issues between assemblymen and Members of Parliament as equals. Instead, they manoeuvre by taking other politicians to the side and plotting schemes with them or getting other national or state leaders to pull rank on the ruling state governments or hold demonstrations!

But, in Parliament, we don’t hear any debate of substance from them except for the excited monkey jabberings of shouting down with racist taunts of “racist, racist, racist”. Yes, I am referencing here the opposition’s response to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy’s clarifications on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in Parliament.

Unhappy with his reply and instead of responding to it with further questions and clarifications, the opposition MPs descended into a circus show of racist bullying. Couldn’t the opposition MPs have just pursued a line of questioning with more probing questions instead of resorting to rude dismissal with racists chants?

MPs need to learn that asking questions and drawing appropriate conclusions from the answers constitute “work”. An MP works when he or she asks questions and provides statistics and facts to support his or her claims. The MP works when he or she meets up with his or her constituents and presents to them the issues of the day and solicits their responses to the issues at hand.

The MP presents a strong case to the constituents based on facts and the correct perspectives and contexts. To do all that he or she needs to do a good amount of homework and legwork which our opposition MPs, grown fat on easy access to the government gravvy train previously, don’t seem able to do. Perhaps they don’t know what they should do and how, and stoop to name calling and underhanded tactics.

Do the opposition MPs know what ICERD is all about? ICERD wants governments to stop introducing policies which will result in the marginalising of any group because of their race. It does not abolish affirmative action. By resisting ICERD and turning it into a “Malay-Muslim” issue, opposition MPs are actually advocating racism.

They want favoured treatment even when they are not disadvantaged and needing it. Under ICERD, those who are disadvantaged will be the recipients of affirmative action but those who are not will not get favoured treatment. These Malay leaders want favoured treatment to continue simply as a right of the Malays even when they are not disadvantaged. That is a racist position and contradicts the rights of the Malays as the dominant community of this nation. The latter is their secure position because they are the majority. All government policies will benefit the Malays by virtue of them being the majority.

The leaders who are emotionalizing this issue don’t want to work and explain to their supporters what ICERD is all about. The just want to be seen as pro-Malay even if the basis for such a stance is hollow, thinking it would rally Malay support behind them. Stoking up racial sentiments in new Malaysia is a dangerous game they are playing and, as Sultan Nazrin has said, it is the people who will suffer.

If the opposition MPs think that ICERD will remove affirmative action in favour of the Malays in the country it is because they don’t know the facts. They need to do their homework and elevate the standard of debate in Parliament so that relevant questions are asked and appropriate answers given. If the answers are not appropriate, query and grill the minister until the answers are given. If the correct questions are asked and answers are not forthcoming, that alone will be an embarrassment to the government.

Name calling and racist terms should be stopped. Frankly, the Speaker should have put a stop to those racists taunts and urged the MPs to get down to work and start debating with substance in Parliament.

 

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Have the police stopped policing the highways?

Since GE14, I have noticed that more and more motorcyclists don’t seem to be using the dedicated lanes built for them, and, instead, are using the highway. Motorcyclists weaving through traffic seems to be the norm now, at least on the Federal Highway which is my main traffic route to nearly everywhere!

It has become a little scary using the Federal Highway these days because you just never know when a motorcyclist will speed up from behind you to the right or left!

Before GE14, you would only see a lone occasional motorcyclist shooting through the traffic. Why is there a change now?

Are the p0olice not policing now? Prior to GE14, you would often see a police patrol car taking the emergency lane and stop those on it. You would also see police checks on the motorcyclists’ lane. But, these days you don’t see them.

There are not that many roadblocks now like there used to be under the previous government, which, I must admit, is a good sign! Previously, you would drive unsuspectingly to a roadblock fairly often and be ready for a negotiation with the policeman to get a summons or get off the hook for a “fee”!

With the absence of roadblocks, it seems as if the police have decided they are doing away with this additional income or pocket money! That’s very commendable of them. But, are they “giving back” by not policing the streets, especially the highways, and, specifically, the Federal Highway which I use often?

Maybe there’s a legitimate reason why the cops don’t seem to be stopping motorcyclists from using the highway. Perhaps, some stretches of the dedicated motorcyclists’ lane are being repaired. But, at those stretches, detours have been made for the motorcyclists to get past the obstructions. But, why aren’t they following the detours?

Malaysians, generally, are easy-going about following rules. When no one’s looking we break the rules, especially road rules, without blinking an eye! So, some traffic policing is necessary to help us develop the habit of following road rules!

I am looking forward to seeing more traffic policemen patrolling the highways and particularly the Federal Highway so that I can drive on the Federal Highway and other highways without the added stress of having to deal with motorcyclists surprising me from either side of my car!

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Happy Deepavali celebrants!

People must be happy. For the first time in years, I heard the firecrackers go off of and on throughout Deepavali day and the days after!

Usually, at the turn of midnight, whatever the feast, there would be a loud night-shattering explosion of fireworks for about half an hour. Then, everything goes silent, and I would wonder if anyone is celebrating the feast! Whether it’s Chinese New Year — when we expect a lot of fireworks — or Hari Raya Puasa, you only hear celebrations for the first half hour of the festive day. After that, there is no sound of anyone celebrating the feast.

It was different this Deepavali! Firecrackers went off throughout Deepavali — not continuously, but intermittently — and there was movement in some Hindu homes — at least that was how it was where I live in USJ, Subang Jaya.

Urban Hindu homes were still shuttered with most out of town as in the case during Hari Raya Puasa or Chinese New Year with Muslims and Chinese respectively. But this Deepavali, some Hindus stayed home and celebrated.

It may be a sign that the financial situation for many in the lower income groups is changing for the better. In a way, it is. Prices of a range of essential commodities have come down. Or, the Budget has given people some good news especially in the form of the fuel subsidy and RM100 monthly passes for unlimited trips on RapidKL rail or bus services.

The Budget has given some relief to the B40 group. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of economic recovery, even if some contraction is necessary to manage resources efficiently with minimum wastage. The benefits may come later and people may be willing to enjoy the simple perks now while waiting for better things to come.

The Pakatan Harapan government now has to ensure a mechanism that will deliver the promised benefits to the people, especially, where the fuel subsidy is concerned which is supposed to take effect from April next year. The delivery mechanism has to be efficient and glitch-free so that implementation from April will go smoothly.

If the government implements the fuel subsidy successfully it will prove its ability to deliver efficiently. That would only enhance the government’s credibility in the eyes of the people.

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Some prices are down, Happy Deepavali!

In the past month, I noticed that the prices of some products have dropped in some places. I don’t know if the price drop is across the board but in certain shops, the price lists show the change. At one of the supermarkets where I shop, the discounted items have increased and they are always snapped up!

This is true of a number of the less expensive products. From my observations, there has been no change in the price of the more expensive products. So, some of the price changes are related to the cheaper goods. If this is a result of the change from the GST to the SST, it should augur well for the low-income groups. It is coming at the right time for those who celebrate Deepavali!

I usually give the lady who has been cleaning my house for more than 25 years a bonus for Deepavali — which she celebrates — and Christmas — which I celebrate! But, this year, since there were a number of goods on discount I bought them and made a nice food hamper for her. She happily took it home!

I hope the Budget, which will be announced today will give the low-income groups some good reasons to be happy. Those who can afford it are still able to adjust their lifestyles to cost-cutting measures but the poor should be spared.

For the rest of us, lowering our standard somewhat, won’t kill us! Tightening our belts now may be necessary for future benefits and success.

Hopefully, the small signs of price drops here and there foretell of better things to come. I hope this first Pakatan Harapan Budget will sow the seeds for a healthy rejuvenation of the economy. We can wait and look forward to it happening!

In the meantime, we can enjoy the little perks we get along the way in the hope that one day the perks will change to real economic upliftment for all strata of society.

In true Malaysian style, Happy Deepavali to all!

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Change is good!

GE14 gave us a golden opportunity to make changes to ensure a better Malaysia for everyone. No doubt, it would take time to weed out corruption, introduce reforms and create policies for economic recovery in order to become a progressive and developed nation.

It is an enviable opportunity we have been given with, enviable because other nations want the same but don’t have it but we got it! However, despite this wonderful opportunity before us, I’m not sure if people are seizing it to embrace change to bring out outcomes that will be good not only to the individual but to the corporate culture of the nation as well.

Change is renewal. It allows us to develop new skills and new ways of doing things and to correct the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, people are stuck in the old way and fail to explore and discover new opportunities to grow and develop.

Take the former government ministers for example. The people have clearly put them in the opposition corner but they don’t want to function as an opposition. Instead, in the old style, they are shamelessly finding the easy way out by scheming and wheeling and dealing in making pacts to work with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. They are posturing and manoeuvering to become part of the government either now or possibly when Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim becomes prime minister (since they had held a meeting with him recently). If in the process, others become the opposition that’s fine with them!

The former ruling party Umno wanted a unity government and now Gabungan Bersatu Sabah — a coalition of Sabah parties who are former Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties — have declared they are ready to form a new government in Sabah and work with PH. They spoke with the prime minister-in-waiting Anwar but not the prime minister in government Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Why don’t they just work hard at being the opposition and win the people’s support through an election? The current situation gives them the opportunity to work hard to get the mandate of the people but hard work they don’t want. They would rather make unholy pacts — unholy because the rakyat did not vote for it — and destabilize the political environment in the process.

Investors can see these pacts being worked out and they would rather wait than invest now. So, those who are engaging in these moves are clearly putting their own interests ahead of the nation. My feeling is that the opposition would refrain from taking initiatives to make pacts with PH parties if they know that such initiatives are not welcome.

Perhaps, that’s the problem: There are some PH coalition parties which are open to the idea of pacts, which is what is causing the current political instability. PH parties need to demonstrate their unstinting support to the PH government leadership to ensure political stability. That would prove their commitment to put the nation first. With political stability, we can expect a flow of foreign investments to usher in economic progress.

It is understandable that those who benefitted from the BN government without personal effort would be at a loss on how to cope now that the crutch is gone. That, really, is the beginning of true independence and building confidence in one’s abilities. Without the crutch, one has to learn to make it on one’s own. That is a great lesson in self-development. It begins with exploring options and seizing the opportunities that come your way and discovering the means to create new opportunities, all of which will aid in helping the individual become a self-determining person, the master of his or her own destiny.

So, the taxi drivers who suffer losses because the new government will not remove Grab from the competition need to understand this. The prospects may seem dim but they need to see in the current situation the golden opportunity to find new opportunities. The outcome can only be good. Who knows, it might be the start of a new culture in nurturing a new breed of self-made very successful businessmen.

Change facilitates development and growth. If we see this golden opportunity that we have been entrusted with as a way for a better future, we will make it work to our advantage. And, that can only mean well for the individual and the nation.

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