According to Straits Times 13 Jan "Law gets tougher on loan sharks", parliament yesterday toughen the legislation on loan sharks. I am all for it. Seeking profit by taking advantage of people when they are down is definitely an action that we want to get rid off.
However, subsequent paragraphs caused me some disquiet. It says " He (AP Ho Peng Kee, Sr MOS for Law and Home Affairs) said that while the focus had been on the loan sharks and their helpers, the ministry had also looked into whether borrowing from loan sharks should be made a crime. The issue drew mixed views and for now, it will not be a crime to borrow from loan sharks."
I am very relieved the govt is not going to criminalise borrowing from loan sharks for now. It would have been disastrous. If the borrowing is also illegal, where are we pushing the people who are so desparate that they had to borrow from loan sharks? They will start to hide from the govt as well, falling deeper into the hole they have dug for themselves, and making such illegal activities even harder to eradicate.
I would have approached this problem from a different angle. Why do loan sharks lend money? Because they can profit from it. So lets make it a non-profitable business, better yet, make it a money-losing proposition. For example, extend the full protection of the law to the borrowers and their family. Publicise widely that borrowers need not repay a single cent of any loan that charges an interest rate above the legal limit since the loan is illegal in the first place. Offer police protection for those who face harrassment from loan sharks. If the lenders cannot get their money back, they are not going to lend. They are not going to get so many runners (many of whom are borrowers themselves who cannot afford to repay their loan) to do their dirty work. In my view, this would be more effective and more in keeping with my innate sense of justice.