PETALING JAYA - High medical expenses and poor financial planning are the main reasons Malaysians gave for personal debt.
This is based on feedback from those seeking assistance from the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK).
AKPK corporate communications head Mohamad Khalil Jamaldin said poor financial planning was cited by 22.8 per cent of applicants while 16.4 per cent incurred high medical expenses.
He said 16 per cent cited failure or slow down in business and 10.9 per cent said they lost control of the use of credit cards.
"In most cases, the factors contributing to their inability to repay their debts included ignorance and lack of financial discipline to live within their means.
"Financial difficulties could also be triggered by a change in circumstances such as health problems, death of a breadwinner, loss of employment and business failure," he added.
He said AKPK's services were free and the public should not hesitate to seek help at any of its 11 branches and 12 credit counselling offices around the country.
Mohamad Khalil said many were reluctant to get help because they were ashamed but he added that their fears were unfounded.
He pointed out that as of Aug 31 this year, some 286,368 individuals had attended their counselling services.
"Of these, 113,845 customers have applied to enrol in our debt management programme," he said.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj said both government policy and personal financial management on the part of the public were needed to tackle the issue of personal debt.
Speaking ahead of Budget 2015, Selvaraj said although the country had a fairly good government healthcare system, there was still room to make it more affordable.
"Besides encouraging medical insurance, the Government must improve access to medical care for rural communities," he said.
Selvaraj added that it was crucial for the public to become more financially savvy.
"It's inevitable prices will rise due to cuts in subsidies. Consumers need to be smart in order to stretch their ringgit," he said.