Your say: The 'tsunami' fuel hike

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‘Everything’s getting so expensive. Where does my tax money go to? I don’t see enough of it coming back to me, the general public’.

On Fuel hike: 78 sen more to RM2.70 per litre

Santan: I’m a woman living and working in KL. I’d would have sold my car and took public transportation a long time ago if not for the fact that it (public transportation) sucks in so many ways. But with fuel prices rocketing I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on to my car, my job and my livelihood.

Everything’s getting so expensive here. I’m frustrated not because I have to pay, but because what I’m paying for is very tak berbaloi . I can’t earn fast enough to keep up with the escalating cost of living in Malaysia, and all our government does is talk, talk talk. Who do they think they’re fooling or entertaining? I’m so sick of talk.

Where does my tax money go to? I don’t see enough of it coming back to me, the general public. I see it going towards funding a handful of increasingly fat and lazy bunch, their families and friends. The poor get poorer and the rich, richer. I see ‘white elephants ‘all over Malaysia. I’m tired of paying for others’ inaptitude and selfish greed.

Where will the government’s fuel subsidy go to? More ridiculous schemes? More useless space programmes? More overpriced power tools? When will the government realise that enough is enough?

Eric: I don’t mind the government lifting the subsidy for fuel as this would truly reflect the international market price. All of us who are consumers should use fuel more effectively to compete on the international platform.

However, we as taxpayers have a right to know where the subsidy will eventually be diverted. I am afraid that this huge sum of money will be misused and benefit only those BN cronies.

I suggest the government set up an independent body to monitor this money and channel it towards improving our public transportation. I don’t think anybody in a right mind would want to drive his or her car 2-3 hours back and forth every day to make ends meet.

Yih: This just goes to show how incompetent the BN government is. Fuel subsidies should have never happened in the first place. And even if it did, it should have never been allowed to snowball into the massive amount it now is. Most other countries in the world can afford to pay for their fuel, including our incredibly small and completely barren of resources island state neighbour. Why can't we?

Because as I've highlighted in a previous letter , subsidies does not stop inflation. They hide it. Our tax money should have went to development - building of infrastructure, education, encouraging of businesses and free markets, developing agricultural initiatives etc. In short, making Malaysia rich as a nation. Rich enough that each individual right now would have no problem in affording expensive petrol.

But no, we have the world's biggest airport, tallest buildings (for a while at least), first paperless hospital BUT the rakyat are so poor we can't pay for petrol. It all goes to show that none of our politicians cared about running the country. I sure hope they have a good story planned, because they'll sure need one when the time comes to face their Maker!

Tmdtwg: I do have some suggestions. If the BN government wants to put the fuel price at the market price of RM4 per litre, then they must do the following first or simultaneously.

1. Make Petronas accounts for the past 30 years (audited) public so that the rakyat knows where the monies have gone. Be accountable.

2. Take over all the tolled highways and scrap all toll booths. Make the highway concession agreement public. Punish the ministers and officials involved in signing these lopsided agreements. Ask the toll operators to pay compensation to the rakyat.

3. All BN cabinet members, CMs, MBs, excos, senators, government top brass including those at GLCS must use small cc vehicles and sell off those posh and big cc cars.

4. Erase corruption. Compel all BN office-bearers and government top brass and their families to declare their assets and make it public.

5. Fix the public transport system. Najib said this wou;d be done when he increased the petrol price but it has never materialised.

6. All lopsided agreements with independent power producers must be reviewed.

7. Those private companies (and GLCs) which have been given a monopoly must contribute 40-60% of their revenue to a special fund to finance research on alternative fuel sources.

If the BN government can’t do all of the above, all MPs must support Pakatan Rakyat and let Anwar Ibrahim be the new PM. He will have new ways to handle this problem.

Edmond Wee: It is wise of the government to reduce the subsidy. But it still has not targeted a big, big problem - smuggling. I still read of reports of petrol and diesel smuggling at the Thai-Malaysia border. What about that? Is there a kingpin behind all this smuggling? Kill the kingpin, stop all the smuggling. Why not involve the MBs of Perlis, Kedah and Kelantan to do their part in combating smuggling? Surely they can do or contribute something.

Michael Sun: The BN government must have gone bonkers for even suggesting to have petrol pump price to be at the market price by August 2008. Conceptually, it may appear to be economically sound at first but our fragile economy cannot take such a shock move. The government must come up with a ‘total package solution’ rather than stop-gap measures which only confirm its inept capabilities.

Firstly, if there is no subsidy, what is the government going to do with the RM56 billion saved a year. It should outline its plans on how the money is to be spent. Otherwise, the BN-puteras will come out with all sorts of projects a la Monsoon Cups, new Airbus for the PM etc and squander all the money.

Secondly, the last time the petrol price was increased in 2007, the BN government promised to improve public transportation. We have yet to see this happening.

Thirdly, why should gas supplied to the IPPs be subsidised and yet the IPPs reap billions of ringgit from taxpayers and consumers? The IPPs signed unfair one-sided agreements with TNB and we have to pay for that blunder now. Fourthly, it is not the price of petrol that it is the issue. It is the purchasing power of our money.

In UK petrol is GBP1.15 and Singapore, it is S$2.152. In percentage terms, these prices are relatively cheap compared to their currencies and higher income levels. Also, the UK, Singapore and even Hong Kong have excellent public transport systems where more than 50% of their populations use public transport to go to work against 10% in Kuala Lumpur

Fifthly, the government should improve the quality of diesel sold here. Diesel-powered cars nowadays are fuel efficient and as a result, more than 50% of cars sold in Europe are diesel-powered. Savings of 50% can be achieved using diesel engines.

Sixthly, the government should given tax incentives for ‘green’ cars which are less polluting and more fuel-efficient like what they do in the UK. Dual fuel/electric cars should be encouraged using tax incentives. Seventhly, the government should give road tax rebates for people using the cars only on weekends and public holidays. This would encourage people to use public transport to work.

Eighthly, APs for the import of cars should be auctioned and the money collected - which runs into the billions - can be used to build up public transport like providing more buses, LRT's and trams.

Lau Sue Chau: The government move to reduce subsidy for petrol and introduce direct cash payments to the small car owners will not really help to elevate the suffering of the lower-income groups. With the petrol hike, the cost of manufacturing and travelling will ultimately be pushed onto consumers who will bear the rising costs in daily consumption.

TNB has already making tons of profits yet with the approval by the cabinet to increase its tariffs, the manufacturers and businessmen will only pass the pain onto the ordinary folks. Therefore, the meagre payback announced will not much help the lower-income rakyat .

What I would like to suggest to the cabinet is to re-look at the value of ringgit in the international currency exchange - how it has slipped against major currencies of the world such as the Thai baht, the Singapore and Brunei dollars, the Philippine peso, the Indonesian rupiah, the Sterling pound and Australian dollar, just to name a few.

Everybody in Malaysia knows that the ringgit’s devaluation is the main cause of rising food costs in Malaysia and the rising petroleum price is only the secondary excuse. I would like to urge the minister concerned to seriously look into strengthening our currency to make life easier for the rakyat .

Patricia Pinto: Sigh. While the hike was already expected, I do wish the government had also announced a better public transport system so the hike won't seem so much. At RM2.70 per litre and a rebate on the road tax, one wonders whether it will make any real difference.

Karma Or Faith: According to government, we have recovered from 1997 crisis which saw our ringgit value plunged to RM3.8 ringgit to US$1. Singapore was insulated and their financial crisis was very short. They recovered much earlier. Pre-crisis One Singapore dollar was RM1.7. Now RM2.3 ringgit is about correct as we are RM3.1 per US dollar.

If we have recovered, shouldn’t our ringgit be RM2.5 ringgit per US$. Why is this not so? The people suffer. The employees suffer. Palm oil producers make windfall profits at the rakyat ’s expense. If our ringgit is RM2.5 per US$, wouldn’t our subsidies automatically lessen? We are in this situation because our leadership system is very corrupted.

Our present crises on food and fuel prices can lessen if we work for Malaysia. Strengthen the ringgit to its previous level and the rakyat will benefit. Has the rakyat not suffered enough?

The Phillippines had Marcos, Indonesia had Suharto, Uganda had Idi Amin, Zimbabwe has Mugabe, Russia had Yeltsin, Cambodia had Pol pot, Germany had Hitler, Iraq had Saddam, Even China had General Chiang. Destroyers of their countries. Who do we have or not had? Dr Mahathir? No, thank you.

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad: It is not that a 40% overnight fuel hike is a terrible thing. The government and the people knew we had to brace ourselves. But for some strange reason, the government and the people chose not to prepare for the future. And today, the rakyat faces the outcome of the decision-making of the government of Malaysia as well as their own lack of awareness.

The cost of food and the cost of other products will also be pushed upwards, creating greater inflation. It will further burden the poor and lower and middle-income groups. Since the government did not take heed of the warnings, they made no effort to improve public transportation.

Hence, people will have no choice but to continue using their cars in order to get to their jobs and make ends meet. I am prepared but most of us are not. Today is my birthday but it is not a happy birthday for me.

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