Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Last year the government erected huge billboards to inform everyone how much subsidy they are giving out for every liter of petrol (they're going to spend additional money to change the billboards now!). I'm not sure if the purpose of the billboards is to make you the rakyat feel guilt over the subsidy or to show the rakyat what a benevolent entity the government is. Either way it doesn't work because of one simple fact. Ask yourself this... where does the money for subsidies come from? Yes. A big part of the government's funds are raised from taxes (for those who find all kinds of excuses to NOT pay tax please don't complain about the fuel rise... you are contributing to the problem) and taxes come from your pocket.
Unfortunately it is also a problem that the price of crude oil around the world is rising. Fortunately for us we have something called Petronas; a 100% goverment owned petroluem company. Simple deduction tells us that when crude oil price goes up, Petronas earns more money. Plain and simple right? So what has happened to the increase in revenues from Petronas? Whatever it's being used for it's definitely not being used to cushion the impact of oil prices to the rakyat.
We have a government that likes to make illogical benchmark comparisons often with rural African countries. This time around, to justify the price hike they made comparisons to Asean countries which I must applaud because the comparison sounds justified... except why do we want to compare in the first place? I'm not sure if there's a single person who will be convinced by the comparison argument. I mean if one day your roti canai stall proprietor tells you "Boss, Roti Canai hari ini naik harga 30 sen... tapi jangan marah... Singapura lagi mahal", what would you be thinking? Personally, what do I care if Singapore has pricier Roti Canai. What I know is MY Roti Canai is going to be more expensive. What the rakyat is interested in knowing is how come our petrol prices are not as low as Brunei's.
I think we need to ask ourselves why the goverment cannot afford to absorb the rising fuel costs. I'm guessing it is because of the targeted budget deficit of 3.5%. But the bigger question to ask ourselves is how come we are facing a deficit? Could it be because of the billions we waste in repairing shoddily constructed facilities? Could it be the billions of ringgit paid for white elephant projects? Could it be the rampant corruption that jacks up prices of major public projects? I'm so very tempted to answer yes to all the questions but I don't have the facts. I'll just assume that I have asked the right questions... what do you think?
There's more to write but I've got to prepare for work so I'll stop right here. Wishing everyone improved mileage in their vehicles :)