Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Do this first: Tackle loan sharking in tandem with proposing financial alternatives

(Published - Dec 30, 2009)

I refer to Mr Ronald Lee's letter last Friday, 'Loan sharks: Rid society of this scourge', and support his call. However, putting an end to illegal moneylending does not in any way solve the problem of people who are in need of money. Before clamping down hard on loan sharks, we should have viable and safer alternatives for Singaporeans in debt, as well as measures in place to prevent youths from joining syndicates as runners.

Ho Chi Sam

Full version (Sent - Dec 25, 2009)

I refer to Mr Ronald Lee’s letter ‘Loan sharks: Rid society of this scourge’ (Dec 25).

I support Mr Lee’s call to end loan sharking in Singapore.

However, putting an end to illegal money lending does not in any way solve the problem of people who are in need of money.

Loan sharks are more accessible to the public than existing financial institutions, which are stringent and scrutinising.

What most of us condemn in loan sharking is the harassment loan sharks cause in the event money is not repaid. Such despicable acts involve vandalism, criminal intimidation and even violence.

Furthermore, runners and youths are recruited to do the bidding of these gangs, and end up taking the fall for them.

I feel these are reasons why loan sharking should be tackled without refrain.

If we were to clamp down hard on loan sharking in Singapore, we had also better come up with viable and safer alternatives for Singaporeans with debt, as well as youths who might have otherwise join these syndicates.

Persons in debt may not only be because of gambling addiction, but also unfortunate financial decisions, escalating bills, joblessness and so on. In addition, we need to understand that not all persons in debt are so because of their own doing, but are affected by external unforeseen circumstances.

We should be looking at these social and financial situations people in debt face, in tandem with our fight against loan sharking.

At the same time, it has to be made known and clearer to Singaporeans other avenues for financial aid. Banks and relevant institutions could provide more accessible loan plans too.

We only need to understand the reasons why people turn to loan sharks in the first place to come up with helpful alternatives.

Ending illegal money lending may reduce the incidences of loan sharking related harassment, but it alone cannot end the respective financial problems faced by others.

Ho Chi Sam

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