Helping the Brunei Needy

A couple of years ago I was staying at my uncle's place in Batu Pahat, a town in Johor for my cousin's wedding. The one thing I discovered at his house was the amount of name cards and flyers at the bottom of his mail slot. When I looked at them, they were all about providing loans. These are not the normal bank loans. These are the illegal loans from loansharks. According to my uncle, he cleaned out the mail slot every month and even then they keep piling up. I was quite surprised that in Malaysia, these 'private' loans have become such huge businesses. A couple of months back there was this story about a street vendor who defaulted on a M$200 loan was set on fire by the loan sharks suffering some 40 percent burns. I don't know whether there are loan sharks already operating in Brunei but I am pretty sure that they are out there except that these cases are not out in the open yet.

I was speaking to one of my staff the other day and found out that in our agency, there are also staff who 'lends' money to other staff. For instance, if a staff has an overtime of say $300 coming his way say at the end of the month but he needed the money now. He can sell that to someone for say, $250 now. The difference of course is the margin that the lender is willing to depart with his money now and the amount that the borrower is willing to forego in order to get some amount of money presently. I don't even want to talk about the legality of this nor the 'ursury' principle that's involved here. Suffice to say that $50 is the opportunity cost to both parties. It happens and that there are people who are willing to be the seller and the buyer. What I just don't realise is the existence of such a system happening under my own nose and that it exists in many agencies a number of buyers and sellers who are willing to undertake such transactions.

The fact that there are Bruneians who are in desperate need of short term cash cannot be denied. Nobody really realises the existence of short term Islamic pawning counters run by BIBD at the old IBB headquarters at Jalan McArthur. If you happen to pop in there, there will always be a large crowd pawning their personal stuffs. I don't have the figures as to how many of these pawned items are returned back as that would indicate that the borrowers only needed the money short term. But I have a feeling that a large majority of the pawned items stay there indefinitely. So there is a market out there and that there will always be a certain percentage of the population who are constantly in need of money.

Add to this, are my previous posting and your additional comments about a small percentage of Bruneians who go around and asking for 'financial assistance'. What we are not sure of is whether the need for extra money is for daily necessities or is it for non productive use. It's easier to be condescending and tell these people that they should plan for the future.

Financial planning is now a word we bandied about. If you are not in a debt spiral, you can always stop yourself at the edge of the financial abyss and start planning for the future. What we do not have is financial planning for those already spiralling downwards into the deep abyss. At the same time we do not want the loan shark market to flourish as they have done in our neighbouring countries.

How do we help them? Some of the cases that the government has helped has not exactly been examplary. There is this famous welfare case of this guy who was given a boat complete with an engine worth at least $15,000 for him to be able to go out and fish and earn an income for his family. The last time he came to see me, he has already sold the boat and the engine, but he did not mention anything about the boat, all he told me was that the welfare people did not want to deal with him anymore to earn my sympathy. I found out about the boat later. He still goes around nowadays asking for 'help'. Cases like this make us very sceptical about wanting to help.

But obviously there are people out there who need our help especially in this month of Ramadhan. They are the orphans, the invalid, the really poor. Some say that the really needy are the ones who do not beg nor ask for help. My sister-in-law once told me about the story of a family in her kampung who lived poorly whom they always donate to. These people never ask for assistance and yet they are the ones that we should help. I guess if we looked around hard enough, there are those among us, even among our own family that need our assistance. These people are too 'proud' and too 'shy' to ask us but we should be aware of their needs. Rather than you throwing the money into new cars, new clothes etc which you do not need, use the money to help them. Good deeds go a long way.


Anonymous said…
You hit the nail accurately on the head here. I know of one case where a person borrowed money from a loan shark but only because this person was heavily indebted to personal loans. Though I can't speculate that the loan shark had violent tendencies, I can tell you that he/she holds the account book of the person borrowing the money. The loanshark basically takes all the gaji each month until the debts are paid off. Catch 22 situation don't you think? The person borrowing the money ends up not having any money left for the month and starts borrowing money from other sources thus incurring more debts.
You are also correct in saying that the people we ought to help are the ones who doesn't ask for it in the first place and believe me, I have heard of several families out there with difficulties so unbelievable that you would never have thought existed in our country. I also know of a group of individuals who goes around searching for these families in places that even I've never heard of, just so that they can privately provide monthly necessities like food, clothing and school fees, but never cash in hand.
It is hard not to be condescending to these people who constantly ask for help but still maintain things like mobile phones and such. However, this is the reality in our country. Maybe all we need is more awareness in the importance on saving for a rainy day...
Anonymous said…
good deeds do go a long way and plus they count for something on the day we are judged by the all mighty. why dont more of us think about this?
Anonymous said…
Iv witnessed a loan shark offering their service before..To cut a long story short, basically, money was exchanged for 1 acre of his wife's land and to be repaid with high interest and within 6 months.

His initial plan was to do two kind of businesses within 6 months but I thought this guy must be dreaming to be able to be a success within 6 months yet pay for the debt.

When he got the debt, no businesses, new clothing and even a car and confessed using drugs...A formula to misuse your loan indeed.

He was caught by the law enforcement and land taken.

We have the notion in papers that Bruneians live on loans and one could see the agrresive tactics by banks, may it be credit cards or loans. I guess it all about living the dream.
Anonymous said…
Yes it does exist in our country. I know a case where one woman pawned her friend's jewelry to the loan shark, with excuse of 'borrowing to wear for a wedding'. When it comes to money, be it friends, family or relatives, its best (and safe) to simply say 'no'. At least thats what I always did.
Anonymous said…
i heard that a 'needy' man sold the beras given to him by this welfare dept,which he initially claimed needing it to start a 'nasi lemak'business. whoa..they really take the easy way out,huh!It is such a shame..are we really THAT lazy??

About loan sharks, they are taking advantage of banks' victims. They are worse than banks, they are parasites. Im just wondering if anything has been done by any related agencies (govt or non govt)... or is this legal? Is there any act that we can use against them? Correct me if im wrong, banks and other financial institutions are monitored by the MoF, but nobody is monitoring, better yet, diminishing, these loan sharks..
Anonymous said…
the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Some say this cant be helped. Why are people getting more and more greedy????? minimum-middle-high paid jobs....same story. sedakah is part of being a seikhlas hati everyday would solve this problem. why buy an expensive car when you can just buy a cheaper one and spend the rest on sedakah??? helpin ure fellow neighbours, countrymen and the rest of the muslims all over the world who are even more in need of money????? those who dont even houses 2 go home 2.....i urge all us bruneians to think about ure fellow sisters and brothers in palestine, lebanon, iraq, etc. who are in need of supplies from us!!!!! dont just think of your own stomach!!!! how can you wake up everyday knowing people are living far more worse then you? insylh all will give us all the hidayah to act upon this. amin.
Anonymous said…

Anonymous said…
Hello, I am Isha Dass from Kuala Lumpur here in Malaysia, if you need loan then contact Abu Abdullah Loan Firm because that is where I got my loan from a week ago without credit check and the interest rate is just 4%. You can reach them with this email

Popular posts from this blog

Brunei Royal Wedding 2015: Profile of Royal Bride Dayangku Raabi'atul Adawiyyah

Family Titles in Brunei

Pulau Cermin - Brunei's Historic Island