KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The chairman of the National Higher Education Corporation Fund (PTPTN) Wan Saiful Wan Jan announced on Saturday that borrowers earning less than RM4,000 (S$1318.55) a month could not defer their loan repayment because PTPTN was owed almost RM40 billion.
Wan Saiful said the decision was made after much consideration.
However, he said an official announcement would be made by prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad later.
Wan Saiful also offered an apology for Pakatan Harapan's (PH's) failure to honour its election pledge because when the manifesto was drafted, he was unaware how large the country's debts were.
"Unaware' seems to be the buzzword for PH leaders to explain the non-fulfilment of some of the election pledges. And PM Mahathir also said he "did not expect" PH to win the election when the manifesto was drawn.
But, should the PTPTN loans provided mainly to needy students to help them with their tertiary studies be tied to populist politics and become a cause of contention?
Can the borrowers who have benefited from PTPTN loans and have later secured well-paying jobs be justified to put the blame on the government for not fulfilling its pledge of deferring loan repayment, even though they have themselves signed a deed to start repaying once they have secured a decent job?
We can see from Wan Saiful's apology that Malaysia's education policy has been dictated by political forces, a reality that sadly still has no way to change in this country.
As soon as the apology was made, the PH government found itself instantly becoming a target of public wrath on the cyberspace.
Social media users were not only hitting out at PH for reneging on its many pledges, but also banked on the situation to call for complete write-off of owed study loans.
Unfortunately, such a good study loan policy has been exploited by politicians to become a "candy" to entice the voters.
As a consequence, loan defaults have piled up over the years and become a norm today.
For the past 21 years, some RM54.3 billion super-low interest loans have been provided to needy students, but the arrears have amounted to almost RM40 billion as of today.
Despite the fact that government debts are now hitting the ceiling, we cannot afford to stop nurturing our country's future leaders.
PTPTN loans must continue to be provided to help needy students complete their studies.
As such, PTPTN must not let up in its effort to go after loan defaulters, and those who have enjoyed the benefit of super-low interest loans in the past and have now been offered a job, must take their own initiative to settle their loans as per the contract they signed, so that PTPTN can continue to provide new loans to other students, as what it did to them years earlier.
A borrower has the obligation to see that every single cent of loan is repaid. The government must not "spoil" the students like how it did in the past.
To be honest, the PH government's apology should be well received in our society, and no one should make this an issue any more.
Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.