Govt, banks shouldn’t set unreasonable conditions if they want to help the Indian community

THE Madani government has added another big hurdle for small-time Indian entrepreneurs seeking a loan from Bank Rakyat’s BRIEF-I, one of the government’s incentive schemes to help the Indian community.

It has been reported recently that the RM50 mil Bank Rakyat loan scheme set aside for Indian businesses has terms and conditions that are difficult to fulfil.

For example, those seeking financial assistance for their Indian restaurants and eateries will only be given loans provided the restaurant has a halal certification.

This is a regressive and unhelpful condition, which most, if not all, Indian-owned restaurateurs will be unable and unwilling to fulfil.

The Indian restaurant has its own distinct identity as it mainly caters for the Indian community comprising mostly Hindus who, to a large extent, prefer vegetarian fare.

In this respect they are different from Malay, mamak or Chinese eateries. The insistence on Halal certification was the main reason why Indian eateries lost their business especially to mamak restaurants and bistros.

A halal certification could even raise suspicion that beef and related dishes could be included in the menu thereby reducing the existing regular vegetarian customers patronising the restaurant.

As it is, the slaughter of chicken and other livestock undergoes the halal process and therefore there is no strict need to go further especially for Indian restaurants.

Halal certification will mean that only Muslim chefs and cooks should be allowed to prepare the food, there will be only halal logos in the shop, female cooks and waiters will have to wear the hijab (head scarf), signboards and possibly names need to be changed, advertisements of alcoholic drinks cannot be displayed and alcoholic drinks like beer will not be available.

Additionally, most eateries in Malaysia feature and display some religious elements whether it is Islamic, Chinese or Hindu to invoke divine blessing for the business.

These can be seen near the payment counter. If these are the conditions that need to be fulfilled for halal certification, then Indian restaurants will resemble more like a mamak eatery serving Muslim/Malaysian food.

Most Indians will not opt for any loans if these are the conditions as their shops will lose their identity and authenticity.

Indian restaurants, like Chinese eateries, now have the freedom to cook what their customers prefer and how they want it to be cooked.

For example, most Indian restaurants use cow’s milk for making tea or coffee if requested. If one goes by strict rules the dairy farmer/vendor supplying the milk will have to be halal certified.

This will be a cumbersome process. The cooking process also differs from others as the spices and ingredients, some ready-made, are mostly imported from diverse countries.

If the government is sincere in its interest to help Indian entrepreneurs by providing loans, it should not needlessly set tough conditions that turn away genuine aspirants who want to start a business.

One could have expected such conditions if the loans were given by Bank Islam, but coming from Bank Rakyat, it is rather surprising!

If Bank Rakyat is not interested to give loans to Indian F&B entities by imposing such unreasonable conditions, the bank should keep the money to itself and not create another controversy that further angers and alienates the already marginalised Indian community. – June 24, 2024


V. Thomas is a Focus Malaysia viewer.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main pic credit: oborseana

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