Misplaced Nambikai of Finance Minister
Malaysia is known as a moderate and model multi-racial country internationally, but within the country its citizens are labelled under race and religious categories for every government-policy decision.
In announcing the 2015 budget, the finance minister highlighted some of the race-based allocations, giving the impression that the government cares and provides for all races fairly and without any discrimination.
One such mention is the RM30 million allocations for micro-credit loan facilities for Indian women, and meant for small enterprises. This money is handed over to Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) to administer, process and disburse loans to Indian women who are petty traders.
But Indian petty traders who have taken part in this scheme are lamenting and complaining that officers in AIM make unilateral decisions to reject loans or to reduce the amount approved.
If applicants question the officers, the loans can be delayed or denied. They are constantly reminded that the funds loaned out must be utilised for halal business and not for non-Islamic religious purposes. There is no transparency and established credit policies in giving out loans. The officers can deny the granting of loans for the most irrelevant of reasons.
In Batu Pahat, Johor many Indians got so fed up with these officers’ unreasonable delays and requests that they dropped out of these AIM micro-credit schemes. There are no non-Malay members of staff in these offices. MIC-supported Indian NGO ONEMIND was appointed as a coordinator on behalf of the Indian community.
The people in this NGO do not know what is happening on the ground and keep repeating policies that are inclusive of Indians in the scheme. Allocating the money is only one part of the problem. The other is that the proper disbursement and ensuring of the target being achieved is not carried out by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) clusters these petty traders into groups of 5 to help each other. They are to guide or mentor each other to remove any business impediments and solve problems.
Malaysian society has been racially segregated for far too long. The result is that each community is a stranger to the other. These petty traders are constantly reminded by Malay members of staff and participants that these funds are for Malays only.
Many small traders feel so unwelcome that they drop out of the Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia scheme altogether. Such misunderstandings can be avoided by employing Malaysians of all races.
The Indian women petty traders are told to bring in more Malay women petty traders to form their group. Failure results in delays and even rejection of loans.
The Prime Minister’s office and the Indian-based parties in BN must disclose how much funds were distributed to such Indian women traders by Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia. As usual, BN will blame the Indian women traders for not meeting the borrowing requirement.
Indian woman traders who have repaid their earlier obligations are denied credit because they are unable to bring in more Malay women traders. Malay women traders get support and assistance from many agencies. Therefore, imposing such a requirement is unreasonable and a lame excuse for rejecting these loan applicants.
Indian women are a marginalized group caught in the cycle of poverty. Indian women who are single parents bear the brunt of government-policy segregation and denial of opportunities based on race.
Help for this group is crucial and urgent if we want to prevent Indian youths from becoming gangsters and thugs. The Prime Minister needs to follow through with the proper implementation of budget proposals and not merely make announcements on allocations.
Malaysia is not short of policies but fails miserably in their implementation. The Prime Minister appealed for Nambikai (trust) from the Indian community before the general election but now, to even get a micro-credit loan for petty traders seems to be a big challenge. What is in store for the next generation if this is the attitude of such agencies?
The government agencies should care for their citizens without looking at race and religion. This simple attitude and openness will make citizens, in turn, care for the nation. A nation’s strength ultimately consists of what it can do for its citizens. May the festival of lights bring about new thinking to foster unity and remove bigotry.