The number went up to 14,000 calls daily from an average of 80, gradually tapering to 600 to 700 per day as more clarity emerged on various issues
by AZREEN HANI/ pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN
ANXIETY pertaining to job and financial security among Malaysians, exacerbated by uncertainties caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic, is on the rise with the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK) recording up to 14,000 calls per day, particularly in the earlier stage of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March.
AKPK GM Nor Fazleen Zakaria (picture) said the high number of calls is a sharp contrast from an average calls of 800 daily that the agency would receive prior to the MCO.
She said callers mostly seeked clarifications on financial issues such as loan moratoriums and debt repayment, as well as issues related to financial restructuring.
As a result, up to 1,200 individuals have enrolled in the agency’s Debt Management Programme (DMP) to safeguard their financial standing and creditworthiness.
“In the beginning when BNM (Bank Negara Malaysia) announced the moratorium, there was a lot of anxiety and concerns among Malaysians, especially those who are heavily affected by the MCO.
“The number went up to 14,000 calls daily and it has gradually tapered to 600 to 700 per day as more clarity emerged on various issues,” Nor Fazleen told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview recently.
Due to the implementation of MCO, AKPK had to limit the operations of its call centres and online enquiries. This, according to Nor Fazleen, is one of the reasons why there was a sharp increase in the number of inquiries among the public.
Still, she said, the agency is working hard to provide awareness and possible alternatives and solutions for individuals, businesses and employers that are facing financial constraints due to Covid-19.
“For those who have already enrolled in our DMP, we’d like to inform them that there will also be moratoriums from April until September.
“We are looking into supporting the public and creating awareness on what can be done to improve or restructure their financial standing.”
Nor Fazleen added that there are rising cases of people who have been retrenched and employers looking into reducing their workforce.
“We do have some sort of package for those who are retrenched, especially as time goes by and the moratoriums will end soon.”
For employers or business owners, AKPK will look into assessing financial standing, compensation issues and its assets, and provide advice on what they could do to minimise the financial impact.
“Worse comes to worse, we will advise individuals to enroll in the DMP, but we also need to review your expenditures,” she explained.
According to AKPK’s survey in 2018, only 24% could survive up to three months with their own savings and only 10% could remain unemployed within six months.
The number is expected to be worse this year as the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM) projected an unemployment rate of between 3.5% and 5.5% this year.
DoSM revealed that unemployment in March rose by 17.1% year-on-year to 610,000 people for a jobless rate of 3.9%.
“Covid-19 has thrown a lot of people off the balance. If you are struggling even before the pandemic, it will be a lot harder for you now.
“But at AKPK, we will try to advocate the best financial management and behaviour, and try to provide a resolution so you will not fall further into financial despair.
“It is important for us to promote good money management among the public. It’s our mandate to make prudent financial management a way of life,” Nor Fazleen said.
AKPK also cautioned the public against being duped by individuals claiming to be the agency’s third-party agent as it has never appointed any of such representatives.
“Do not believe third parties claiming to represent AKPK with a promise to solve your problems for a fee. Our services are free for all individuals,” the agency said in a recent statement.