Monday, January 07, 2008

Clinic helps educators who are deep in debt

Teachers given financial advice

Clinic helps educators who are deep in debt


Nakhon Ratchasima _ The Education Ministry hopes its mobile financial clinic will help relieve the troubles of teachers and academic staff countrywide, who are on average in debt by as much as 1.1 million baht each.

Teams of financial experts, who have travelled from province to province since March last year, have served as consultants and financial managers for 4,864 teachers whose total debts of 5.2 billion baht have left them desperate and unhappy.

The high rate of debt among teachers averages out at a disturbing 1.1 million baht each.

The serious debt problems of teachers has forced concerned agencies to come up with several measures to relieve the problem. These include the registration of indebted teachers and the planned establishment of a 15-billion-baht scheme to restructure the debts of teachers who receive academic entitlement allowances. The ministry has also looked for ways to raise teacher incomes.

''The clinic can help pull them out of their debt crisis,'' Deputy Education Minister Varakorn Samkoses said yesterday during a meeting to discuss the mobile clinic project.

These teachers have borrowed billions of baht mainly from financial institutions in the form of loans and credit cards. However, non-formal loans appear to pose the biggest problems due to high interest rates, according to the ministry.

In some cases, the debt problem is so serious that it has led to teachers committing suicide.

The clinic experts tell the teachers to first settle these informal loans, even though some may need to borrow money from other financial sources. The Government Savings Bank has joined the project to help teachers by granting them loans to pay off loan sharks.

Mr Varakorn said the financial experts do not only tell them what steps to take to settle their debts, but also teach them how to control their desire for goods, which often exceeds their limited incomes.

''We tell them to live in moderate ways'' as instructed by His Majesty the King through his sufficiency economy plan, he said. The King put forward his suggestions after Thailand suffered in the financial crash of 1997.

Teachers can reach the experts in areas of finance, investment and law by calling the 1579 hotline or simply wait for the mobile units to visit their areas.

The mobile units have visited 21 communities so far.

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