Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What’s with the 30 cents increase?

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* Are we driving the right car to be concerned with 30 cents increase in fuel price? Cartoon source: http://www.fewings.ca/ and copyright by John Fewings
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I heard about the so called “covert” increase in fuel price when I was still in Bangkok. It hit me hard when I returned to Malaysia and found the plain mee goreng at my favorite mamak joint has gone up by 20 cents at the stroke of midnight! Obviously, the mamak was faster than some of us. Yes, it is becoming way of life for us Malaysians.

Reading through the net, it seems like a lot of Malaysian are crying foul too. Most seems to be unhappy on the increased amount they have to pay for the fuel. Some even demonstrated in front of the Petronas Towers although the objective of the demonstration was questionable. After all, 30 cents increase is huge right? However, there are some who agree with the increase on the fuel price but wants the Government to wisely use the money saved from the subsidy. Yes, we can go out to the streets waving a keris in our hands, seeking the Government to maintain the fuel subsidy but fortunately not all of us are born with the subsidy mentality. We understand the mechanics behind the move to increase the fuel price. In the end, the subsidy has to go.

I personally believe that we should take away the RM4.4 billion of fuel subsidy and use that money to improve on the standard of living. The fuel price has been artificially low for a long time that it has encourage wastage and spiral increase in traffic & pollutions (if you staying in Puchong and uses the LDP, you will know what I mean). Fuel subsidy in the long run is bad news.

Morgan Stanley summarised it in 4 main strong points as to why fuel subsidy is a bad thing. For details, read here. One point made by Morgan Stanley that caught my eyes is this: “In the short run, higher prices should lower demand. But if prices are kept artificially low, users will continue to guzzle oil”. How true - when they guzzle, they guzzle a lot and I don’t mean the fuel inefficient Malaysian cars.

Anyway as I said, I am all up to take away the subsidy and use the money for improvement on the standard of living. I pat myself on the back for what I perceived to be a good direction. Then I stopped and thought to myself…wait a minute, this is the Government of Malaysia that we are talking about. Given their “track record”, I fear for the worst – an increase in fuel price & the money saved from subsidy wasted by some ambitious mega projects or bailouts (I sense Proton and MAS already queuing up for some charitable hand-outs). If it happens, it only means one thing – typical Malaysians got screwed twice. Will it happen that way despite Pak Lah’s on road show on the Government too will be thrifty?

What’s with 30 cents increase to me?

Obviously for a start, I have to stop going to the mamak joint for my mee goreng. The mamak at the mamak joint needs to sell 3 roti canai to cover for the fuel price. He already raised the price from 80 cents to 90 cents and the fact that he does not travel much, I doubt that the 30 cents increase in the fuel price will have any impact on him but what the heck; it is still a good excuse to sell the roti canai for 10 cents more.

This also meant that I have to reduce my time playing computer games so as to reduce the electricity bills. Ultimately Tenaga Nasional will be knocking on the PM’s doors to get the green light to increase the rates, so I might as well start early. Syabas, Alam Flora and Telekom Malaysia will be on the lookout too – they might as well make the killing whilst it last. In a nutshell, I have to reduce my all expenditures just to meet the 30 cents in fuel price and 10 – 30 cents arbitrary increase in other stuff. It’s about time anyway.

I wish I could take the public transport but the irony of things is there are no public transport between Puchong and Sunway. Two big residential areas, side by side and yet there is not a single public bus running between them! We are only left with only one major road – LDP Highway which is choked with traffic most of the time. So, all the talk of improving the public transports seem full shit for the time being. Why talk about improving the bus service when there are no buses running in the first place. This leaves me with no option but to continue driving to work.

My Iswara is not exactly the type that BBC’s Top Gear will highlight for fuel efficiency but at least it is in good working order (with proper service schedule too. Ya, blame me for that). I watch Jeremy’s antics with saving fuel with his V8 Audi at Paul Tan several times to see whether I could learn a trick or two but there was not much to learn. Yes, Jeremy said accelerate before climbing the hill – that is good for saving fuel. I tried the same; I was forced to slow down by a Kancil driven by an old lady on the fast lane. But seriously folks, most of time I spent on stop-go-stop driving on the hills but with the increase in fuel price, there is a glimmer of hope that there will be fewer cars on the road. Fat chance but it is as fat as Pak Lah’s hope that traders will not increase prices.

In couple of month’s time, I’ll bet that some Majlis Perbandaran (Local Authority) will blow away thousands of Ringgit on some wasteful beautifying project or all “important” overseas cum holidays trips and will still have the cheek to say that it was done because they had the budget. This will happen, trust me. Already, the police made their move with a request to build a training centre for the special op costing RM1.0 billion. That’s left Aisehman to wonder why.

My final question – what’s next? Remember that there is RM4.4 billion up for grabs and plenty more subsidies to be cut. The belt around my waist just got tighter. It’s time to lose more weight.
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(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Governance)
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