Last week, we saw petrol and diesel prices go up by 20 sen. PM Najib says it is nothing to be alarmed and should not rock the livelihood of Malaysians. Pro-BN NGOs parrot this. So did MCA and DPM Muhyiddin coming out to support the increase in fuel price by cutting subsidy thereby saving RM1.1B a year. All the reasons spelt out by Ministers show how little they know Malaysians and their economic plight.
When DAP Tony Pua suggested that Ministers and Deputy Ministers consider paying for their own petrol, Minister Nazri says that is pure nonsense. Not that DAP can change the policy but it was rhetorical to suggest that the Cabinet has no feel of the burden placed on Malaysians by this increase because they never had to pay for the petrol they use. Malaysians are paying for them.
Did someone say that price should only increase by a negligible amount? And did a Minister actually said it? Did the silence of the rest of the Ministers and Deputy Ministers mean they agree since it was approved by the Cabinet? Well, they should all be fired for not able to stand up for all of us poor Malaysians. Who voted them in the first place? Oh…those in rural areas who do not drive, who thinks that fuel and car prices mean nothing to them? Boy, how wrong they are.
This started in 2008 after GE12 when Pak Lah decided to increase the fuel price by 20 sen and he said the same thing that PM Najib said. It will not affect Malaysians much but the Government will have more money to bring about development. Well, look at what that did to us and also with another increase mid-way before this last round.
In Malaysia, when fuel price goes up, everything else goes up because fuel touches practically all of our lives in some way. And business people will use this as the best excuse to raise prices and it is not 20 sen proportion of the price. It will be much more. And strangely when world oil price has come down, we are seeing our price go up. In our history, prices raised due to fuel price increase will never come down. It will stay and wait for the next hike in fuel price. As an example, when the mee goreng price of RM4.50 jumps to RM5.00 and fuel price comes down (it did once), all we get is a few pieces more tauhu (bean curd) and noodles. It does not come back down to RM4.50. Never. After all, businesses are in the game to make money, not to give away money.
So, with all the nuggets of wisdom and justification our PM and Ministers make, they can save their breath because no Malaysians believe them anymore. All we know is life will get worse, our disposable income will shrink overnight. PM Najib promises bigger handouts of BR1M to cushion the fuel hike. Big deal. Most Malaysian who do not drive will get the subsidy. The rest will have to sweat it out. And BR1M will cost more than the RM1.1B a year especially if it will be given out every year from here on. Wonder where our Cabinet learnt their maths and accounting. Save RM1.1B and give away more than RM1.1B as handout when the entire country gets an inflation growth? No thank you, PM.
But wait! We are seeing RON95 price at RM2.10 and the Government tells us that the real price should be RM2.43. So we have another 33 sen more to go. Rumors have it that by the end of the year, there will be another 10 sen to 20 sen hike as Christmas gift to all Malaysians. We shall see if Malaysians suffer more by then.
To put things into perspective, subsidies like fuel subsidies do have to go one day. But not now. There are more ways to scrape the barrel for money for the Government’s use. How about curbing abuse and excesses in Government spending? How about cost cutting in the Government to become a more nimble rather than bloated Government? How about seriously stopping WITFM mentality in Government dealings? How about eradicating corruption? What about subsidies to IPP and Toll Operators and other companies that are not directly affecting the people? Why can’t the Government stop their subsidies first?
And where will the savings of RM1.1B go? If BR1M is given, there it goes. Idris Jala says that it will never go to the IPPs. Of course not if BR1M happens. There will be none left to give. Now if BR1M is paid from another kitty, the RM1.1B will find its way somewhere and we can be sure we will never know and it will not be for us Malaysians in any material way.
Time to tighten that belt and move it one notch inwards. Food prices will creep up on us without knowing in the months ahead. Retail prices will go up once old stocks are replaced with new ones. Soon, everything we know will have changed their prices and it is up, up and away. Except for salary.
Times are certainly more bleak to us after GE13. We must also brace ourselves for the implementation of GST which should be announced in the October Budget for 2014. A 6% at minimum will be expected so that those Malaysians who are not paying income tax today (and there are seriously many more than those paying taxes) will also be caught to pay when they buy something. Although the Government says that there are 400 protected items that are not affected, let’s see how it pans out because these 400 items follow the Customs code and not by what we actually buy as consumer items. For example, it is impossible to prevent GST on roti canai because the poor guy selling it will have paid GST for the raw ingredients required to make it. The Government can only enforce if local companies producing flour for these roti canai makers are exempted to pay output tax but it is impossible to do so because the roti canai makers buy from the local grocery marts. In short, we shall soon see more hikes in goods and services eating into our ever dwindling disposable income.
We must brace ourselves for worst times ahead with another 33 sen possible increase over time for fuel prices and the impact of GST on our cost of living. This is what we voted for in GE13. Make sure we can swallow this well.
God bless us, Malaysia.