THE recent MoU between the government and Pakatan Harapan is commendable. It will strengthen the democratic foundations of our nation while promising a political ceasefire while we battle Covid-19.
However, there is one item that does not belong in the MoU. It is the promise to waive accrued interest on loans under moratorium for three months for the B40 group.
I say this as a retiree and former bank employee. For 30 years, I worked in the same one bank. I was not a highly paid executive, as I only worked in the branches.
As a loyal employee, I bought the stocks of my bank with my extra earnings. Now that I am retired, I rely on the dividends paid on this stock while also slowly drawing on my modest savings in EPF and ASB (Amanah Saham Berhad).
If banks are to waive interest payments, shareholders like me will have to bear the cost.
How can the politicians and government force banks to bear this cost? You might say that banks earn billions every year, but these billions of ringgit are paid to thousands of other retirees and shareholders like me.
There are also millions of savers who are members of EPF, ASB and etc. which are themselves shareholders of banks. It is our savings and hard-earned money. The government must explain what powers it is using to expropriate what belongs to bank shareholders. What happened to Article 13 of the Constitution on my rights to property?
Either way, banks must bring this matter to their boards and shareholders to vote. In this particular case, the government has not used its powers to tax, and so has no right to take away our rights.
The boards of banks have a fiduciary duty under the Companies Act and they must not accede to this request for exemption unless their shareholders approve.
I may have been a lowly officer in a branch, but I know enough about the Constitution, corporate governance and my rights as a shareholder. Shareholders and retirees like me would be deprived of what belongs to us.
There are groups of people who are in need of assistance. But to fund this assistance, the government should raise taxes in accordance with the law.
Many people (myself included) are happy to voluntarily contribute to funds and other causes to help those in need.
But this must be done properly. We must not rob Peter to pay Paul.