A controversial proposal to garnish the wages of federal student loan takers gave former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak fresh ammunition with which to savage his favourite victim, Education Minister Maszlee Malik
In a Facebook post today, he mocked the Pakatan Harapan government for going from promising to defer National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) to wanting to cut borrowers’ salaries directly.
He noted that while his Barisan Nasional (BN) administration had pressed borrowers to pay back these loans, it took into account their ability to meet the monthly obligations.
Najib also pointed out that BN implemented a 20 per cent discount for full settlements.
“If you already cannot deliver on the manifesto pledge or provide free education, at least copy and paste what BN did before.
“Pay attention, go ahead and copy our answers and take notes if you cannot follow. Only then can we give a score of 9.95 to the ‘learning minister’,” he said in mockery of Maszlee’s self-assessment in a recent interview.
Among others, he said BN allowed borrowers to repay at least RM100 monthly and converted the study loans of high achievers into full scholarships.
He also urged the public to remember PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan as the person behind the wage garnishment scheme set to begin in January.
Najib questioned how ordinary wage earners could cope with a sudden deduction to their salaries that ranged from 2 per cent to 15 per cent of gross income each month.
Noting that BN was previously criticised for blacklisting PTPTN defaulters from travelling abroad, Najib now asked what was wrong with pushing the borrowers to repay.
Backlash over the proposal prompted PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as well as Youth and Sport Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to say they will raise the matter with Maszlee.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress president Abdul Halim Mansor questioned the legality of the scheme, saying the law only permitted mandatory wage cuts for selected statutory bodies such as the Inland Revenue Department, the Employees Provident Fund and the Social Security Organisation.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said the proposal was complicated and burdensome on private firms as it was unlike income tax and EPF deductions that were applicable to all employees.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran also confirmed today that employers could not be forced to collect the payments on behalf of PTPTN without necessary legal amendments.