PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak has come to the defence of National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) debtors, saying there was nothing wrong with them holding Pakatan Harapan to its manifesto promises.
In a Facebook post, Najib said the borrowers have been instigated for a decade by the then opposition not to repay their loans.
“Now they are attacked for not repaying their loans. They shouldn’t be scolded as being untrustworthy and an embarrassment to their race and now, told to ignore PH’s manifesto promise.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad criticised PTPTN debtors who refused to repay their loans even though they had the means to do so as untrustworthy, saying the government was owed some RM36 billion in unpaid student loans.
Najib said the PTPTN borrowers were only seeking to hold PH to its manifesto promise.
PH had promised to allow an extension period for repayment until a borrower’s salary reached at least RM4,000 a month.
“My advice to those who can afford to repay the loans is to do so to the best of your ability because PH’s populist and unwise decisions have put pressure on the government’s fiscal situation.”
These, he said, included the loss of RM40 billion in revenue due to the abolishment of the goods and services tax (GST), reintroducing blanket subsidies and leakages from the collection of corporate tax and the sales and services tax (SST).
Meanwhile, former PTPTN chairman Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said Putrajaya shouldn’t label all loan defaulters as “untrustworthy” as there were many reasons why borrowers failed to settle their loans.
In a statement, the Lenggong MP said while there were those who might have intentionally defaulted on their repayments, others were unable to make the payments as they were either jobless or low-income earners.
Some, he added, were also influenced by PH’s PTPTN promises.
“So why didn’t defaulters pay? They were taken in by a populist policy,” said Shamsul, who had in March labelled PH’s proposal as unrealistic, adding the move has now affected PTPTN’s finances.
“If you asked me who is really untrustworthy, it is the government of the day.”
Shamsul, who resigned as chairman in May, went on to say that Putrajaya must address the matter and pointed out that the previous administration implemented several initiatives to encourage borrowers to settle their loans.
This, he said, included giving a 10% discount to those who had settled half of the amount of their loans.
Earlier today, Education Minister Maszlee Malik said borrowers were obliged to settle their PTPTN loans.
“Whatever the manifesto says, the borrowers have to pay the loans,” he was quoted as saying.