Thursday, February 1, 2007

Of Ah Longs and part-time taxi drivers...

FELLOW bloggers Ahirudin Attan and Jeff Ooi were accorded a fair bit of publicity in recent weeks. Some mainstream media gave them space and highlighted their court cases, while some of us walked with them to the court room in Wisma Denmark.

While their cases are heatedly debated in and outside blogosphere, I was attracted to two news item this week - one concerns the big fight againt Ah Longs, and another one about civil servants moonlighting as taxi drivers.

Judging from the slant given to these two items, I get the impression that Ah Longs will be here to stay and continue to terrorise borrowers (read small businessmen shunned by banks). And I also sensed that civil servants who use their spare time trying to make ends meet by being taxi drivers may not be allowed to do so without being harassed.

Let's look at the Ah Longs first. The authorities are suggesting that action should, and would, also be taken against the borrowers. Well Sir, this is easier said than done! May look good on paper and make good TV sound byte, but not so doable lah...

Who are Ah Long borrowers anyway? Has anyone done a comprehensive study on them? Anyone got a reliable data base? Are you an Ah Long borrower? Is your enighbour one? Does anybody know? Can Datuk Michael Chong help identify who they are? Or can Rakan Cop seek them out?

Will we see an Ah Long reporting to the police: "That so-and-so is a borrower, and I am the lender." Will that ever take place?

Or will the borrower saunter into the police station and declare: "Tuan, sayalah itu peminjam dari Ah Long so-and-so. Tuan mau bikin apa dengan saya? Tuan mau saya bagi maklumat siapa itu Ah Long? tuan ingat saya gila kah?"

The Ah Longs thrive because financial institutions do not fully support free enterprise. Not many banks genuinely help genuine businessmen in dire straits. That's the story I hear repeatedly where Ah Longs are concerned.

By wanting to take action against the borrowers, I think the authorities are missing the wood for the trees.

Listen to Bob, an Ah Long forced-believer: "I just can't borrow money from banks! I have a legitimate business, a sizeable staff, an office building. I ran into some cash flow problems. I sought some financing from banks. I filled countless forms, interviewed by many officers, made to declare numerous items.

"And then I got a NO as an answer. Why? Because I'm regarded as a bad risk, having been blacklisted for defaulting old loans. I've paid ALL these loans. I've got documents to say I'm clean. But I'm still under Bank Negara's black list.

"Can you fault me for going to my neighbourhood Ah Longs who roll me so that I can continue to run my business, ensure my staff are not put to the street, and keep my clients happy? I pay dearly for these loans, yes. Where are the banks when I need them?"

And listen to Ari, a government clerk during the day and a taxi driver at night: "Abang, I'm a family man. My wife is working. I have to school-going children. I live in a low-cost flat. I bought it for RM25,000 about 10 years ago. The lifts break down very often; the staircase are full of grafitti; the toilet leaks.

"My family takes home about RM1,500 a month. My loan repayment for the house is RM180, my motorbike loan RM100, my groceries is about RM200, my marketing is RM60 a week, school bus fees take it another RM80, hire-purchase for my refrigerator and television is RM140. Then there's my petrol bill, pocket money for the two girls, tuition, money for my old folks, the odd night to the pasar malam...

"Abang, tak boleh survive on that kind of gaji! So when my brother in law suggested I drive a taxi at night, it was god-send! NowI'm saving to buy my own taxi, I can at least take my family to Port Dickson for a Sunday outing. After the petrol price went up, even that is no longer possible.

"You want to know how many Government servants drive taxi? Plenty! It's not a haram business! What's wrong if I drive a taxi to enable me to save, buy new clothes for my children, support my father's medical bills. Hello! You ingat semua orang bawa taxi kaya kah? It's a very competitive industry Abang! Not many people take taxi anymore because they are also affected by the rising prices."

Bob and Ari are just two hardworking fellows. They are very responsible people. They need support and encouragement. They feed and clothe their families as best as they can, even if they know the risks are high and sacrifices are truly burdensome.

Surely they can't be faulted. More than that, surely they need help.

6 comments:

Mohd said...

Dato'

They are warriors faithfully work day and night just to make a living, to put food on the table. Childrens crying for new toys, wife fantasizing for birthday ring. Can't afford family outing.
They are just a helpless thinkers, thinking about tomorrow.

At the end of the days, they go and meet The Creator.

This is my father's story. A Telekom's Linesman in Kuantan. May God bless him. I still wonder how he managed to raised all 10 of us till early nineties.(with RM600 civil servant wages motnhly). He spent nights to work as "Jaga', yet he always remained calm and composed. I still remember the yellow 'Buku 555' which he carries all the time.
I am in Dubai now. If I can take him for a vacation, an evening Turkish Coffee at Burjuman may not be enough to describe the word.
I missed him. Al Fatihah.

antibullshit said...

La hawat punya bangang punya cerita sedih. Bangsat yang cuba cuba mahu mendirikan benang basah. Kalau ampu along tu pengampu along juga.

Cerita orang buat dua tiga kerja cari extra income, cubalah tanya pengedar dadah tu buka berapa banyak kedai?

Oh cerita orang kecil main api bila dah terbakar diri sendiri kata bukan salah kami, polis tak tangkap along!

Yang peminjam pun penipu macam along juga. Cuma kalau boleh dia tak mau bayar tetapi parang dia tak lah panjang macam parang along.

Lain kali pakai gang la hentam along. Biar beringat-ingatan:
kalau dah dayus pengecut jangan la bising-bising. Cee tiam-tiam.

Bangsat yang bawa teksi tu jangan la nanti makan suap di opis.

Ini cerita katun mamat ni bawa.

Gerubuk said...

Good stories, Datuk. I enjoyed reading your articles in mainstream media before, simplified, down-to-earth but profound impact. I am glad I found your blog.

Our banking and financial systems need a major revamp; but it needs political will and courage. There is little or none of that ( is there a hegemony conspiracy lurking somehwere? ) Our bankers are just like the proverbial Shylocks, hungry more for your pound of flesh than to genuinely provide you an umbrella when it pours & floods.

Little different from the Ah longs who are market opportunists with sharper teeth & more immediate threat of violence.

If and when the banking system can offer common folks with micro credits & small loans under mutually negotiated terms, that will be a major revolution indeed.

The government must review their compensation system to genuinely and caringly improve the lot of its full spectrum of employees. As it is, only the top echelon of bureaucrats enjoy civilsied lives, while the lower 70% or so have to make ends meet and live the proverbial 'kais pagi makan pagi, kais petang makan petang' hard lives. What a heart-ache!!

Which leads to creative ways of trying to improve their lot, many of which are definitely not halal. Paraphrasing Sean O'Casey or another, who cares for principles when you lose an arm and a leg? If the big boys up there make big bucks and no action is taken on them, the small fries will try to sweep as much crumbs as they can that fall under the tables.

As it is, many of the Msian govt servants are more like slaves.

While the heads of depts / divisions / ministries can retire to corporate directorships of these and that, the regular gurkhas retire to tanam jagong or literally makan angin until they eat dirt!!

A review is necessary and implemen
ted soon before the whole world sees that Msian government seervants are near or almost bankcrupts, or living just on the edge of the poverty line!! Shameful and certainly not reflective of the US4,500 per capita GDP!!

Whew...better go for a couple of jugs with some buddies later to de-stress, at least, la!

Cheers.

Kunta Kinte said...

My dear Ahmad

If what you wrote about Bob having paid off all his loans is true, then all that remains is for the banks concerned to take off his name from the list of loan defaulters.

Many a time, people have paid off their loans but their names remain on that blessed list that bankers rely on when making the final decision on whether to extend a loan to an applicant.

I have come across such cases and have dealt with them accordingly.

My regards to you, Brudder.

Kunta Kinte said...

Ahmad

By the way, I have met a potential borrower who approached a leading bank for a loan in a business where he is virtually a pioneer.

Your guess is as good as mine: The bank manager asked him to go and see a loan shark!

Why? Simply because he was never punctual in paying off instalments on his existing loan. And why did that happen? Simply because his business demands he makes trip overseas and so is not all the time in the country to dutifully observe that the loan repayments are religiously performed on time.

Now we can talk about the professionalism of a banker, not bankers.

Vani said...

Datuk, having been an accountant for 22 years in various capacities, I am aware of bankers and their stories. Only want to lend if you have money, i.e, against the money you already have. Then want everyone from your grandmother and grandfather to co-sign as guarantors. No matter how well run the businesses are esp if you are a sme. Of cours if u r a Multinational then story is different. No matter how beautiful your business plan is no matter how good your track record is. Property loans also same-many of you may not realise it but at the end of the day you pay and pay and if u really sat down and calculated, you will realise that you have paid 2-3 times the original price of the house. So you just cari makan the way you can and leanr to survive.