'Fuel price hike a blessing'

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vox populi big thumbnail ‘It will put both businessmen and politicians in their place. For too long, both of them have been shortchanging the Malaysian public.’

On 2,000 play 'cat and mouse' with cops

Joe Fernandez: All this is a blessing in disguise. Look for the silver lining in the cloud and count your blessings. Be thankful and grateful and you will have even more reasons to be thankful and grateful for.

I am glad the runaway fuel prices will put Malaysian businessmen, noted crooks and criminals, in their place. Traditionally, they shortchange their workers, the consumers, the government and investors. Now, they are forced to absorb the rising fuel prices and make do with smaller profit margins. If they increase prices for their goods and services, the market will eliminate them.

The runaway fuel prices will also put the politicians in their place. In the past, they were in cahoots with their businessmen friends to create unnecessary government projects to steal indirectly from the treasury.

Dr S Vijayaratnam: In view of the increased cost of fuel, particularly diesel, the government is urged to give priority to the commercial transport sector. The uninterrupted operation of haulage of goods, especially food items, is essential to the well-being of the general public.

We don’t want to see a situation where, due to a slow-down or cessation of this lifeline, wet markets, supermarkets and hypermarkets are devoid of meat, vegetables and grain on their shelves. Such a scenario is frightening, and can lead to social problems and unrest. We can see it building up in Spain and Thailand right now.

It was pointed out in a recent newspaper article that if the food supply chain is hampered for just three or four days, and retail outlets are empty, there is the danger of people becoming desperate, and no telling what they could resort to.

We appreciate that lorry transporters recognise their national responsibility, and are continuing with their operations. However, it is vital that compensation or incentives in some form is given to them, so that daily groceries and edibles from farms, abattoirs, ports and warehouses, most of which are perishable, continue to be delivered.

Among other measures, road tax reduction, exemption of import duties on spare parts and tyres and raising the fleet-card quota for subsidised diesel could be considered.

If we are talking about food security, transportation an essential component. The process cannot be compromised due to high fuel costs. ( the writer is vice-president, Gerakan ).

JD Lovrenciear: In the wake of the pandemonium resulting from the horrendous fuel price hike, the government recently announced several cost cutting options involving ministers.

Unfortunately the government's seemingly good intentions has only drawn much flak from the public. Perhaps the government should consider some common sense back-to-basics strategies to gain brownie points and also to address the fuel-price threats effectively.

As any crisis also offers opportunities, the government should think outside the box and table more pragmatic solutions. One such creative solution would be bringing back the humble trishaw to our streets.

Numerous streets in the towns and cities could be turned into trishaw-thoroughfares without much complication.

Bringing the trishaws back also serves as a double bonus. Not only will the demand for fuel be reduced and the street air made more breathable, it also offers many Malaysians an opportunity to earn or save that extra ringgit to help combat the financial squeeze.

Further, if properly nurtured - minus the greedy grabbing hands of politician-businessmen, many of our young and enterprising youths could be well on their way to earning a decent income let alone being more productive.

Surely the rakyat will find the trishaw rides convenient, cost-effective and above all, save the nation's fuel burning arising from unending traffic jams in main cities and towns.

Hopefully if the government does not take this idea through, the opposition government in the several states could take up the suggestion and show our ruling government the 'way forward'.

Albert Heng: I don't believe that ministers ever pay for any entertainment so why should they get an allowance for it at all? In all cases, I believe certain people would rush to pay for any entertainment for a minister, or perhaps be cowed into paying!

Mooshie Mooshie: Will Petronas show us its accounts? No way, not in a million years. It is also known as the ATM (automated teller machine) of the Malaysian government namely Umno's giant cash kitty.

It will get a lot of people in trouble if Petronas has to show its accounts to the public or parliament. Maybe when the Pakatan government comes to power, then it can be done.

So fellow Malaysians you know what to do lah. And to Pakatan you also keep your promise ya?

Joe: The foreigners are merrily chirping away again, ‘Cheep! Cheep!’ And why not? At RM 2.70, they're paying about half of what they pay at home!

Why raise the petrol price for locals so heftily and allow the foreigners to enjoy the same 'cheep' price? Simple arithmetic will tell you to raise the price for foreigners to a level high enough to offset whatever claimed losses Petronas is suffering but still lower than foreign prices - RM4.50 for example. They will still pay as they still save.

Arthur Chan: Many Malaysians are not aware that the state of Kelantan has not been explored for oil and gas. The BN government didn't spend any money on this state because it is under PAS rule. The sea area off Kelantan state is just as large as Terenggnau’s.

John Johnson: I am a bit surprised that the royalty are keeping mum over the dissatisfaction of the majority of the rakyat . There are important issues that are causing pain and suffering to the rakyat but not one of them has come out openly to say something to let the people know that they are supportive of the rakyat .

Richard Kamalanathan: The oil price has been rising remarkably in the last six months beyond our meagre expectations and it is not going to recede as much as we would wish it to be. It is has increased our burden of movement via private and public transportation;

The government may not be able to interfere as much as it would wish to. The international and global economy has to confront these rises and adapt its future course in accordance with numerous rises in other sources of energy especially electricity.

The price of steam coal has risen by leaps and bounds now too. The cost of electricity has yet to rise. I do not wish to appear fair to the government but I only wish that most of us would approach our own political parties to which we belong to come out with a clear policy as to how we can overcome the oil prices and help the people who are in dire need of survival.

The survival syndrome in Malaysia is already around the corner and political parties like the DAP, PKR and PAS must explain how they will overcome these increases and promise the people who have elected them a better alternative.

Ikunosan: The government should retract all APs issued, and instead sell the APs to anyone that wants to import a vehicle. This way, the estimated 7000 - 10,000 APs issued a year can generate, at RM40K average price of an AP, an estimated: RM 40,000 x 10,000 AP = RM400,000,000!

This is all about BN mis-management, they giving out APs to help only the few.

Hafiz: Personally, I have no qualms on the right of the people to voice their dissatisfaction on the increase in fuel prices. My view is that such protests should be channeled through proper means.

I personally feel that the organisers should think twice about organising another 'mega' protest because it can lead to a waste of resources especially if such an action is planned to be repeated.

Protests on the street can lead to road closures, traffic congestion and a sudden influx of people coming into the city - aren't these leading to a waste in fuel for the ordinary Joe who is stuck in his car trying to get home but 'forced' to join in the rally of people?

Can we think of other means of protests instead of street rallies, please?

On A sustainable public transport system - possible?

Maniam Sankar: Okay, so improvements to public transport will only feature in Budget 2009 says the finance minister. When the last price increase for petrol was announced , there was a promise to improve public transport including adding more coaches to train.

Even a date, October 2008, was mentioned for the additional coaches. And now the minister only wants to include it in the 2009 budget which means we’ll be lucky to see the expansion in early 2009, if at all. In the meantime, dear Malaysians, do be resigned to the ‘sardine tin’ rides

Allow me to suggest immediate improvements to the bus service so that they follow the example of buses in Singapore and most Australian cities. During peak hours (6.30aam to 9am and 4.30pm to 7pm say ) send express buses direct to the residential areas.

Do not let them go from one taman to the next before going to the city or vice versa as that lengthens the commute time. For example, instead of sending buses at 10 minute intervals and going through two or three taman , send one direct bus every 20 minutes from each taman .

After peak hours, stop buses, except those from neighbouring suburbs from coming into the city but use them to ferry commuters to the nearest train station and shopping areas. By this time, the crowd will be latecomers and moms will be doing shopping so this will fill up trains and buses which will be running empty by now.

This system works in the cities aforementioned. Right now, not many bus routes pass the nearest shopping centres or train stations as they are all headed to KL only. There is hardly any intra- taman or neighbourhood bus services.

It is presently easier to get from any suburb to KL than from, say , PJ to PJ or Subang to Suban. Please do the easy fixes first. The grand solution can come later.

On The BN's or PM's fatal remedy?

John Lee: I think Dr Dzulkefly has made a mistake in his economic analysis of subsidies. As a general rule, subsidies and indirect taxes are part of the field of micro-economics. A simple microeconomic analysis would actually suggest that subsidies are harmful because they isolate people from the costs of their actions - there is a ‘deadweight loss’, to use some economics jargon.

Of course, the situation is more complicated than that, but ultimately I don't think subsidies are the best way to aid the poor.

A proper macroeconomic analysis of the situation would treat the subsidies as government spending. As a rule, government spending does boost the economy. Dzulkefly is correct to say that this is ‘beneficial for the rakyat.

However, not all spending is alike. A subsidy primarily benefits people who buy a lot of petrol. Those who buy gas guzzlers and drive over the speed limit benefit more from the subsidies than those who take public transport or drive compact cars. This government injection of money into the economy primarily benefits the rich.

A more appropriate form of spending would be to give people the money directly, perhaps in accordance with their income (so a middle-class family gets a smaller or even no rebate, while the hardcore poor get substantially more).

This would be more efficient than an un-targeted subsidy, and would act as a subsidy for whatever the families decide to spend their money on, rather than just a subsidy for petrol. If I decide I would rather buy a book than fill up my tank, I still benefit.

Unfortunately, the government persists in ill-advised fiscal policies. Petronas’ profits should not be going to prop up foundering cronies' enterprises or subsidising ministers' vacations. They should be rebated directly to the Malaysian people, or invested for long-term benefit of the country.

The government's reduction of the fuel subsidies is a good start, but as long as they spend the new revenues imprudently, our frustration at the government will continue to be justified.

Stephen Chew: In the article, the writer touts the ability of net oil-exporting countries like Venezuela and Iran, to provide highly subsidised fuel for their citizens, implying that surely Malaysia can and should do the same.

Beware the paradise of cheap petrol, as the real picture is not as rosy as depicted. The truth is that the governments of Venezuela and Iran have been trying for years to remove these economically distorting subsidies, but are cowed by vociferous citizens who treat cheap oil as a birthright.

Ever since 1989, when thousands of Venezuelans died in fuel hike protests, reducing fuel subsidies have become politically impossible even for the popular President Chavez (he calls the subsidy ‘disgusting’).

Despite ever rising oil prices, the Venezuelan economy does not benefit as huge amounts of money are drained from the national oil company to pay for subsidies - money that could instead be used for social welfare and development programs. Sounds familiar?

You might think it would be easy to fill up your petrol tank in a country that exports more oil than almost any other country in the world. But as of May 21, 2007, Iranians are no longer free to buy as much subsidised petrol as they want due to a rationing system introduced by the government in Tehran - resulting in riots which destroyed many petrol stations.

Until then, the government of Iran had subsidised gasoline to keep prices down, but the programme has proven exorbitantly expensive in a period when the Iranian economy is struggling.

Can the Iranians really afford to provide cheap petrol for its citizens as the writer asserts?

What is clear is that oil prices in Venezuela and Iran have been kept low despite its devastating economic consequences! Do we really want Malaysia to follow in their footsteps?

On Elect ricity: C'mon, no one uses less than 200 kW

Soo Ching Pin: Concerned Netizen mentioned that an air-conditioner is in use in the house he/she was talking about. I think that is the culprit for power consumption. My younger brothers have installed air-conditioning in the house that they share with my mother.

Since they did that, their monthly electricity consumption has gone over 200 kW, just as in Concerned Netizen's house.

On the other hand, I do not have air-conditioning in the rented house where I live. I live alone and my monthly electricity consumption has averaged less than 100 kW so far. Granted, I am not at home at least 10 hours a day as I work outside the home, except for my off days.

But when I am at home, I will usually have at least one light on. I also have the standard household appliances like a refrigerator, TV set, DVD player, a rice cooker, a kettle, etc. Of course, the refrigerator is always on unless I shut it down for defrosting but that will only take an hour or so every two weeks or more.

So I conclude that when the government says that more than half the households in Malaysia use less than 200 kW per month, those are the households that do not have air-conditioning. Can we have some statistics from air-conditioning suppliers as to what percentage of Malaysian households have installed air-conditioning?

Then we can see whether their figures are consistent with what we would expect in view of the government's figures on the proportion of Malaysian households using less than 200 kW per month.

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