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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Are we being duped?!?!??! Another step towards inflation...

The rising prices of oil in the international market seems to really be having an adverse effect here in Malaysia (despite us having oil on our shores ourselves). The buzz was on yesterday afternoon with rumours circulating the price of petrol will be rising by more than 40% to RM2.70 per litre by midnight. As the working hours ended, the queue at all petrol kiosks began all the way through to midnight I presume.

What political and economical repurcussions are to follow by this sudden hike? One can only predict the dissatisfaction of the people on the government's move to such a drastic increase. According to the Domestic Trade Minister (Shahrir Samad), vehicle owners i.e. below 2000cc and motorcycle owners i.e. below 250cc will be compensated with rebates or RM625/year and RM150/year upon road tax renewal. Other alternatives have also been outlined for vehicles that don't fall into those categories. Is this 'cushion' sufficient to calm the impending uproar amongst the public? They're not even sure they'll be subsidizing for long either.

Tuesday's news (3/6/08) reported the new oil subsidy scheme to be implemented supposedly in August (supposedly yet to be decided). Now the press is reporting a somewhat different tune (just two days later). Not only is the price of petrol and diesel increased, it's also on a monthly review basis?

"Malaysian still pay lower than market price as far as
petrol is concerned."
- Pak Lah's comment reflecting the 30sen per
litre subsidy 'enjoyed' by Malaysians

Maybe Toyota should think about expanding it's Prius sales to this region. Maybe a hybrid car can help alleviate the pressure of this absurd price escalation (plus it's environmentally friendly too - talk about killing two birds with one stone). I don't quite get Pak Lah's comment though. It is to be expected that we're paying petrol prices lower than market price considering we mine petroluem.

Consequent to today's development, it seems that we should be bracing ourselves for the inevitable ripple effect. Consumer products (i.e. everything involving logistics) will also be experiencing an increase with many backing their price hike with the fuel price. With the government's intent to have prices reflect global ascend, it's not impossible that we'll be seeing petrol stations showcasing their price of the day as per done in many countries these days. I remember in the States (back in the days when I was holidaying there), the prices varied amongst petrol companies, as if saying 'may the best man win'. I wonder how long before we'll be witnessing that scenario here. Is it possible to pass subsidy duties from the government to the respective companies (i.e. Petronas, Shell, Esso-Mobil, Caltex, BHP, ProJet, etc.) and let them fight it out? How much are they willing to sacrifice for the consumers?

What are the government's plan to eradicate poverty in the country amidst the increasing cost of living? Is the anti-corruption efforts actually paying off? Without doubt, there are still a considerable number of irresponsible individuals out there in high places taking advantage of their position and ranks to aid their personal agenda and wealth. Where will the savings from the fuel subsidy be reallocated to? More unnecessary 'development' projects? Uncalled for 'leisure' benefits? Will the plans be shared with the public as per the government's vouch on transparency? Who prepares the year end report to gauge the government's performance and efficiency in distributing wealth to the nation and its people? How will we be able to review the heads we've dutifully elected to serve us? The current vibe is bad. A lot of people aren't happy with where the country's heading post-election. Buckle up people. The people's trust is not worth losing.

Would it hurt to at least have made public transportation more efficient, reliable and safe before having forced us to bear the weight of such a move? They're only addressing the matter now? Take KL for example. Bus services are unreliable and sparse. LRT stations are often jam-packed with people hoping to squeeze into already sardined trains. Don't even get me started on Komuter services. I've been amongst those unlucky enough to have to have waited for a Komuter which not only did not arrive as scheduled but was unacceptably an hour or so late. If I were to have to attend a meeting and the Komuter was the only mode of transportation I had the luxury of taking, rest assured my schedule would've been topsy turvy. While waiting for the Komuter just recently, I heard they'll be increasing the frequency to every 20 minutes. I'm not much of a sceptic but on this, I have my doubts. It doesn't help that most LRT/Komuter stations are oddly located. Some so isolated, I dare not jump off for fear of my safety. I'm not sure who does the transportation infrastructure but somebody had better fix it up. The best experience of public transportation that I've had the pleasure of experiencing so far is in Singapore. Can't we stop critisizing them and actually learn from what works for them?

Looks like like everyone else, I, a humble consumer and rakyat have to review my budget and see what other little luxuries I can still afford. *sigh*

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