In my previous letter, I wrote about the unfairness of subsidising petrol and that I would prefer to receive cash dividends from Petronas as a shareholder. A few letters in response have been highlighting the state of country's public transport and motorists behaviour towards bicycle users. We must realise here the big picture that as a company, Petronas should maximise its returns on shareholders funds, unfettered with the social obligation of having to subsidise petrol users.
Petronas should be given a free hand to do their job, which is maximising return to shareholders, without any interference from the government or the prime minister. The profit it makes should be returned to all shareholders (all of us, Malaysians) in the form of dividends. I have no beef if some or all of the dividends are given to the government on our behalf to spend on welfare, housing or cash subsidies (social welfare payments, income top-ups) for the poor, the disabled, the pensioners and the low-income group.
So far, since the formation of Petronas, I have never heard of any dividend payment from it. Correct me if I am wrong. I read about Petronas paying taxes on its profits to the government, but do we realise that it can pay much more in taxes if it doesn't have to subsidise any of its customers? Do we realise that we are also subsidising citizens of neighbouring countries (the Singaporeans and Thais) who cross the border to fill up their tanks?
Most of us rightly grumble about the petrol price increase, but do we realise that our incomes could have been much higher and comparable with Singapore and other Western countries if we didn't waste our precious resources on mega-projects to line the pocket of cronies? The duty of the government and the civil servants is to serve the people and do what is in the best interest of its citizens.
It is true that Malaysian cities are poorly planned for public transport users and bicycle users but it's never too late to start lobbying the town planners and make some changes to our habits. Many Western cities have dedicated cycle lanes parallel to or on the roads, and cycling is very much encouraged. Public transport there is subsidised by the government, the monies are from petrol and road taxes. Concerted efforts have been made to turn people away from their cars towards environmentally friendly public transport and bicycles.
Why don't we all make an effort to use bicycles for short distances? It's good for our health and environmentally friendly. Bravo to the letter writer who rightly argued that petrol subsidy is classified as consumption and we should spend more money on education and health, which could be classified as investment in our future.