Can loansharking activities really be stamped out with ‘new kit’?

Can loansharking activities really be stamped out with ‘new kit’?

By Philip Ang

I refer to article “New kit to stamp out loansharking activities” dated 10 Mar.

It is disappointing that the government continues to adopt a ‘postering’ approach to tackle another chronic problem – loansharking.

If this problem could really be tackled with more community involvement, then surely our 30 thousand plus grassroots members would have already done their job without more direction from the government.

The lucrative returns from loansharking ‘business’ has always outweighed the risk of being caught, evident since decades ago.

There were 11789 cases in 2008, 18645 in 2009, 16834 in 2010 13342 in 2011 and 8988 in 2012.

The 70,000 or so cases translate into every HDB block having seen some loanshark’s creativity almost 10 times over the last 5 years. (private properties and condos being unlikely candidates)

If prior years were included, loansharking activities were even more blatant and had been ‘normalised’.  That also confirms the perpetual silence of our RCs and the ineffectiveness of the police.

What about the number of unreported cases?

Kudos to DAC Keok Tong San for reducing the number of loanshark harassment cases by a whopping 30 per cent in 2012 (link).  MP Teo Ho Pin may wish to contact him for advice.

It is the responsibility of the police to reduce the level of loanshark activities to a level of an exception before calling on the community for assistance. (akin to Town Councils which request feedback from residents to discharge its responsibilities)

This ‘classroom cum decal’ approach will likely prove to be a one-off public relation event, as with many others before.

Loansharks do serve a ‘function’ in society, providing loans to gamblers as well as non-gamblers in dire financial straits. The removal of its function would require a holistic approach.  To penalise a ‘genuine’ case due to unforeseen medical bills or sudden retrenchment reflect a lack of understanding and empathy for our fellow human beings.

Just like the postering approach used by our public estate managers, the new kit to tackle loansharking activities has progressed to using decals which are unlikely to be effective.

What Singapore needs is serious enforcement by those in position of authority for things to really work.  For that to happen, manpower is required.  But manpower seems to be in short supply in the civil service. There has also been close to zero personal contact with RC members on a range of issues and it is this person to person approach that works.  Not decals on lift doors.

We have been having committees and campaigns for decades which merely give a semblance of things being done.  These are all shortcuts without any accountability for failure.  Clean toilets in coffee shops and food centres will continue to be elusive.

Before excuses are made for repeated failures, the government should bear in mind that the size of our country makes it a breeze to manage compared to neighbouring countries.  The civil service has also employed the top brains in our country with the highest civil service pay in the world.

Since public resources have been allocated, there should be some sort of KPIs and periodic update of the progress by MPs, if any.

Although all stakeholders should be on board, ultimately, it is the effectiveness of our police which determines if loansharking continues to be rampant.

Installing decals on lift doors is similar to Town Council’s posters on notice boards which have never worked.  The reality is that RCs and most Singapreans have always been indifferent many issues.

For those few who are not, posters or decals do not make any difference.  As, the new kit to stamp out loansharking activities ignores the reality of heartlanders, its effectiveness is highly doubtful.