Yesterday was a horrible day for me. The rain set in around 6.00 p.m. when I was in a public transport bringing me to Mid-Valley Megamall. As usual with rain during this period, the cars would naturally slow down resulting in traffic turning into a crawl. Immediately after reaching my intended destination, I had dinner and walked towards the taxi stand at South Court.
The long queue shocked me. Normally, taxis come at a slower pace during rainy days but to my surprise, it is slower than expected. Many taxi drivers drove away without taking passengers. I was even rejected a few times with exasperated and tired faces of taxi drivers looking at me. Spent 1 hour in queue, waiting for a cab to pick me up!
Finally, a Malay driver took me and we chatted. Answering my question on what is wrong with the traffic situation, he smirked and told me the price of the fuel would be increasing drastically by 12.00 a.m. and people were heading in droves towards petrol stations to fill in the tanks before the 'deadline'. Indeed, it was confirmed, albeit visually. Even the Exxon Mobil station near Mid Valley was packed. Cars were queueing up all the way onto the main road. I realised the announcement came in late in the afternoon. That is why I did not know about all that.
Necessary Questions to Ask
Returning to the original context of the article, there are a few necessary questions, that I and my friends thought of, pertaining to this hike. Without answering these, it would be very hard for us, the citizens of Malaysia to accept the justification to the Fuel hike: 78 sen more to RM2.70 per litre .
1) If it is said that the increase is due to world market price, would the local oil price drop when the world market price drops? What is the working basis? If Malaysia is only following the 'increase' method, how could the 'world market price justification' be plausible?
2) Will the Petronas accounts for the past 30 years (audited) made public so that the rakyat knows where the income derived from selling petrol have gone to?
3) Where will the removed government’s fuel subsidy go to? Funding of Space programmes? Funding of Monsoon Cup? Funding of Brickendonbury-like Sports Center?
4) If it is said that the people should reduce their spending and change their lifestyle, the most direct solution to this problem would be using the public transportation system. However, the government forgot one thing : Why did citizens buy cars? Minus off the reason that some actually purchase cars because they are rich, the other common answer is simple : because the public transportation system is deplorable. I believe most lower-middle income people will provide this as an answer.
The question is : What is Pak Lah and government's plan to improve the public transportation system so that Malaysians can rely less on expensive fuel via personal cars?
In the past various promises had been made on 'improving public transportation' but still the condition of the system is bad.
Read this Bernama report dated March 01, 2006 Fuel Price Hike Responsible Decision, Says Najib
He explained that the savings from the subsidy reduction would be used for development, especially to improve the public transportation system.
He said the Cabinet today agreed to set up a committee chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and himself as deputy chairman to plan the development of the public transportation sector.
"The revenue saved from the subsidy will be deposited into a trust fund to be set up. The fund will be used to improve the public transportation system in the country," he said.
"I know there are also ministers who take the LRT (Light Rail Transit) to go for functions because it is convenient. (Housing and Local Government Minister) Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting told me today he had taken the LRT five times as it is more convenient," he added.
That was year 2006. Today is in year 2008.
Frankly, I do not see much improvement in public transportation. I can say that because I am a frequent user and most of the time, I choose to use the more expensive taxi because of the inconsistent waiting time. The worst transportation systems are the buses and KTM. I could write elaborately about various plaguing problems but that would only be too long to publish in a single entry.
Sincerely, how in the world can this solution be considered as acceptable to the public ?
Removal of subsidy is actually a good thing because it releases government from economic burdens. The money could be utilised for other development means which will, in return benefit the citizens.
If that is the reason, why is there a big backlash from the public? Instead of viewing the situation explicitly, the implicit tells us there is a possibility that the public has no confidence in the way the money may be handled.
Malaysians in general do not have a high income. The alternative solutions proposed to the citizens are not appealing. For example, some people purchase personal transports because of poor public transportation. Now, it is expected of them to use public transport because of expensive fuel hike impacting personal transport usage. Unless the public transportation 'really' improves, it is akin to telling someone to jump from the frying pan into the fire.
In order to solve this matter, the government has to be transparent in revealing the plans and figures. Promises made should be materialised in order to inculcate mutual trust. Otherwise, the situation will more likely remain the same on this matter. Other future fuel price hike decisions may bear similar results.
This article is also published in http://www.malaysia-today.net/2008/content/view/8545/84/
Thursday, June 05, 2008