Monday, August 2, 2021

‘Extra cautious’ banks point borrowers at govt aid as pandemic rages on

New loan applicants should make use of the various programmes under initiatives like Penjana, they say.

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Banks are being more cautious about giving out new loans, with many even advising customers not to approach them for financial aid, a check by MalaysiaNow has revealed.

Several players in the sector said banks have been encouraging prospective applicants to request for government aid instead, as they brace for a new wave of Covid-19 infections that forced the prime minister himself to warn the public to adhere to health SOPs.

A record high of 691 new infections was recorded yesterday alone.

As the six-month loan moratorium came to an end this month, banks are more concerned than ever, even as they extend the suspension of repayments for those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

The loan moratorium period which ended on Sept 30 saw about 500,000 applications for repayment assistance made, 98% of which were approved according to Bank Negara Malaysia.

The central bank said that loan repayments could be frozen for another three months for those who remained unemployed after losing their jobs this year, while those who had received pay cuts due to Covid-19 would be offered reduced loan instalments contingent on the type of financing.

The Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM), which brings together 26 commercial banks, said it would be better for loan applicants to make use of government assistance such as the National Economic Recovery Plan, or Penjana, Putrajaya’s multi-billion-ringgit rescue package to help businesses and households cushion the impact of the three-month lockdown this year.

“There are various programmes that could help or benefit industries and borrowers affected by Covid-19,” ABM executive director Kalpana Sambasivamurthy told MalaysiaNow.

“Borrowers from these industries are encouraged to explore the programmes available under Penjana.”

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) meanwhile said it had received complaints from those who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 but have not been able to get further loan relief from banks.

Fomca deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman advised against an automatic extension, saying borrowers must furnish convincing proof of why they deserve a delay in repayments.

“Banks should only help those who have really been affected by Covid-19,” Yusof told MalaysiaNow.

He said banks should take a proactive approach to helping people on a case-by-case basis.

“Then there will be no issue of borrowers complaining that they received no help from the banks,” he added.

Yusof also said the extra caution by banks in handling loan applications is not surprising, given the uncertainty over borrowers’ ability to service their loans.

Kalpana meanwhile said decisions on applications for individual loans would be determined according to the criteria set by each bank.

“This includes the borrowers’ eligibility and their credit score,” he said, adding that applicants must submit all necessary documents when requesting for loans.

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