Last weekend, I bumped into a friend whom I have not met for a couple of years and we got on to chat reminiscing our schooldays memories. Behind her smile, I sensed that she was 'hurting'. She finally confessed that at the moment she was out of work despite sending her CV to various companies and attending numerous interviews.
She really tried her very best to secure a job. She is truly depressed with the mounting bills she has on hand and a sick mother to take care of. At one point of time, she even thought of ending her life. I am truly thankful that she was wise enough not to resort to getting herself into vice or borrowing money from loan sharks to worsen her case. I understand that sometimes one's luck or fate can be twisted badly without one least expecting it.
Since she has yet to secure a job (she has never stopped trying) and has not been keeping up with paying her credit card bills and loans, she is definitely not a good candidate for another loan from a bank. She is probably already blacklisted by some of the banks she owes credit to. Which explains why others in a similar situation to hers turn to loan sharks with a hope of ending their misery.
She has since turned over a new leaf, learnt her lessons very well and has stopped using all credit facilities (she never maxed out her cards and was just six months behind her payment schedule due to being unemployed). But the taunting calls made by the banks (and their lawyers) continue to harass her everyday. She never wanted to run away from not paying them, but she just doesn't have the means. She knew that if she answered their calls, their query would still be the same: 'When will she settle her payments?' Some even threatened to summon her to court!
I know she has been working for a number of years and has good EPF savings. I doubt she has enough savings in her bank account. Otherwise, she would have paid off all her debts.
May I suggest that EPF savings be utilised to help someone in her situation? She is definitely an eligible and suitable candidate. After all, it is her savings (from her past salaries and employer contributions) that is being put away for retirement purposes. While she continues to search for a suitable job (and she will still continue to contribute to the EPF once she secures a job), it would be great if EPF would consider helping people like her so they don't get into additional trouble, eg, commit suicide, suffer depression, resort to loan sharks etc.
Since the EPF allows contributors to withdraw their EPF savings for housing loan purposes to lessen their burden (I truly applaud this approach) provided they have enough in their account, why not extend this facility to ease the burden of credit card holders and bank loan borrowers? The contributor could furnish their latest credit card or bank loan statement as a supporting document. To ensure that the contributor is truly genuine (in being unemployed), the EPF should check their last period of their contribution (and the last employer contribution). There are definitely many ways to ensure that the contributor is a genuine applicant.
I hope that the commercial banks, Bank Negara and the government will look into this matter seriously. The main objective is to help genuine people like my friend end her debt situation. She seriously wants to start anew minus all the credit. EPF contributions shouldn't be just savings to be put aside for retirement purposes but should also be accessible when the need is critical and genuine.