Low wages trigger high debts among police

By Juliana Menon

PETALING JAYA, March 25 — The escalating cost of living in urban areas can result in lowly-paid police personnel incurring high debts.

“They are in such a situation as their monthly salaries are inadequate,” Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, the chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies told Malay Mail.

The government, he added, should look into the root problem of how policemen were laden with debts rather than formulating cosmetic solutions.

The former senior civil servant said this when asked to comment on the statement by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan that police personnel with a lot of debt would not be placed in positions which could expose them to corruption and power abuse. 

“The number of policemen with high debts may not be significant, however we must take precautionary measures as these debts could draw them into unwanted misconduct,” he told Parliament on Thursday.

The Deputy Minister was speaking on police personnel who were deep in debt and whose take home pay each month was 40 per cent of their salary.

Apart from poor financial planning, Nur Jazlan had said one of the main factors was the lack of transparency in declaring their debts to superiors. 

Ramon felt the move to prevent police personnel from advancing to positions which could expose them to corruption was a mere cosmetic measure and would not bring effective results in the long run.

“I believe they (policemen) receive inadequate salaries as the last salary review for civil servants was many years ago,” Ramon said.

“The present wages of officers are not in sync with the current cost of living. It is essential for the government to review their salaries to ensure these officers do not drown in debts.”

He said the government should be taking preventive measures instead of “punishing” these personnel for struggling with their debts. 

“Measure such as close supervision will not solve anything as the root problems still persist. That is why the department should provide financial consultation to educate these officers,” Ramon said.

“Supervising them closely is a great idea but there must be a good structure on how superiors will supervise otherwise it will not result in anything.”

The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Civil Service (Cuepacs) president Datuk Azih Muda said the deputy minister’s intentions were good but effective steps should be taken to ensure the plan is a success. 

“It is very disappointing as there are no steps regarding the supervision method had been discussed with us,” he said, adding he hoped the ministry would work with the congress to solve this problem. 

He said it was unfair to prevent police officers from attaining higher ranking because they are in debt as it clearly shows the ministry has stereotyped civil servants who are giving their best to the country. 

“Despite the Government’s good intentions of upholding integrity of the officers, this method will not be effective as officers would still remain in debt,” he said. 

Former Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Dell Akhbar Khan said the wages of police personnel were insufficient.

“Those living in urban areas may face difficulties as they have more commitments and the standard of living is very high. They will constantly be short of cash if they are not paid well.”

He added the financial status of police personnel should not be a factor that determines a promotion. 

“An officer should be given a promotion if he has worked hard for it. His financial status of being in debt should not hinder him from being promoted,” he said.