Public fumes over oil price hike

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The hike in the domestic oil prices continues to be a major cause of dissatisfaction. The government appears to be taking the easy way out by passing on the cost of its failures to the people.

by Ong Eu Soon 

Citing the financial burden of higher fuel subsidies on the back of record-high global oil prices, the Barisan Nasional government, led by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, has allowed steep and repeated hikes in fuel prices recently. These hikes have been made  in disregard to the subsequent escalation in prices of goods and services, leading to a rise in the cost of living and suffering among the downtrodden masses.

It is ironic that the government finds the cost of fuel subsidies a continued burden and, yet, it is ready to indulge in the building of an expensive crooked half-bridge (linking Johor Baru to Singapore), the stupidity and irrelevance of which is self-evident.

The government is ever ready to allow traffic to crawl through our cities in a brazen strategy to generate sales for our national cars. No major effort has been made to reduce the burden of fuel subsidies by reducing fuel consumption, introducing good public transport especially in places outside Kuala Lumpur, and discouraging the use of private vehicles. Instead, more toll roads are built, and the government readily compensates toll operators if it declares a moratorium on toll hikes.

Oil prices were raised even as Petronas’ net profit in the fiscal year ended 31 March 2005 surged 50.3 per cent to US$9.36 billion – the best annual performance in the company’s history.

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We cannot allow ourselves to be swayed by the whims of the government. Accepting the present price increase will mean condoning erroneous policies and bearing the costs and consequences. We cannot allow the government to take the easy way out again by passing on to us the cost and consequences of its own failures and mistakes.

It is useless to call upon the government to impose a moratorium on oil price increases, Only a massive campaign against the oil price hikes can make this government seriously reconsider its actions.

We urgently call on the public to register their displeasure over the latest price hike. We will only be protected from predatory price hikes if we start to take charge. We must demand that public hearings be held to ensure transparency in the process of fixing of oil prices and to take into account the concerns and observations of the public.

We should demand that the government arrange for a thorough audit of its finances to identify wasteful spending and losses due to corruption. We call on the government to set up a national transportation policy to improve the shoddy transport system in our country in an effort to curb fuel consumption, thereby reducing fuel subsidies.

You have an opportunity to put an end to this problem, if you try.

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