Coronavirus: Cash-strapped people rush to pawnshops in Malaysia

Many have been unable to work or have lost their jobs due to the movement control order

Long queues were seen outside pawnshops in Johor (above), Selangor, Melaka and other states in Malaysia as people pawned their jewellery for cash or renewed pawn tickets. Malaysia began relaxing its coronavirus control measures, allowing some busines
Long queues were seen outside pawnshops in Johor as people pawned their jewellery for cash or renewed pawn tickets.PHOTO: BERNAMA
An officer gesturing to people to observe social distancing as they queued to register for Covid-19 screening in Kampong Bharu, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
An officer gesturing to people to observe social distancing as they queued to register for Covid-19 screening in Kampong Bharu, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Many cash-strapped Malaysians have been flocking to pawnshops, which were allowed to reopen last week as the country began easing its movement curbs.

Long queues were seen outside pawnshops in Selangor, Johor, Melaka and other states, as people pawned their jewellery for cash or renewed pawn tickets.

Many Malaysians have been struggling with financial hardship after suddenly being unable to work or having lost their jobs due to the movement control order (MCO), in particular, lower-income groups, the self-employed and daily wage earners.

Mr David Yew, manager of a pawnshop in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Kepong, said that since the shop reopened, there have been "too many" customers, adding that they were of all races.

"We had 140 customers today. Most of them pawned their gold for cash. They had run out of money during the MCO and didn't have any food at all," he said.

"I can't help much - the government should help them. If government aid is RM600 (S$195) for a family and you have a baby, it is not enough."

Staff at another pawnshop in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Sri Rampai said they were "too busy" to talk. "We had over 100 customers yesterday and today," said a shop employee.

Malaysia Pawnbrokers Association president Tan Ho Keng said that most people went to pawnshops to renew or redeem their pawn tickets.

"There are a lot of people queueing outside the shops due to the fact that we have not been open for 11/2 months," he was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

 
 
 
 

He urged the government to introduce the use of digital transactions for pawnshops to reduce physical contact.

Last month, Mr Tan had called on the government to allow pawnshops to reopen after having received many inquiries from customers.

He said pawnshops play a vital role in helping society and, in particular, the lower-income groups "to obtain funding to buy necessities during this difficult period that the country is facing".

Malaysia began relaxing its coronavirus control measures, allowing some businesses to reopen from last Monday, citing economic losses of RM63 billion since the MCO came into force on March 18.

The government has estimated that some 520,000 Malaysians have lost their jobs in the first seven weeks of the movement curbs.

The government had at end-March announced that it would give cash aid for those eligible, but former human resources minister M. Kulasegaran asked if the aid had reached those in need.

"In Ipoh, I saw quite a number of people going to pawnshops, placing their jewellery for cash... Has the government economic aid reached the people?" he tweeted on Monday.

  • 520k

    Number of Malaysians who have lost their jobs in the first seven weeks of the movement curbs. 

Facebook user Nurhani Marzuki said she was one of those who had gone to a pawnshop.

"Praise God, as long as I can handle things myself, I will handle it myself... avoid borrowing and begging," she said.

Malaysia has seen a decline in new coronavirus infections in recent days.

Yesterday, it reported 54 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 6,589 cases.

The Health Ministry said there was one new death, taking the death toll to 108.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 10, 2020, with the headline 'Cash-strapped people rush to pawnshops in Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe