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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

PM Najib asked to explain petrol cost hike despite drop in crude prices

Opposition leaders want Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to explain his government's move to drastically hike petrol prices by 20 sen a litre from today, despite international crude oil prices having fallen slightly in the month of January.
Malaysians of all races who just returned from the Chinese New Year holidays, Petaling Jaya Utara lawmaker Tony Pua said, received a shock when Najib presented them with a big “ang pow” - the big hike in RON95 and RON97 prices to RM2.30 and RM2.60 a litre respectively, while diesel increased by 10 sen to RM2.15.
This represented a 9.5 percent increase for RON 95, a 8.3 percent increase for RON 97 and a 4.9 percent increase for diesel, he said in a statement today.
“While (the hike) is painful, Malaysians could perhaps have understood when fuel prices went up in January. It was the result of an increase in global crude oil prices for the month of December. Brent crude prices went up from US$51.48 a barrel to US$56.73 in December 2016.
“However, Malaysians cannot understand why the prices were increased for February when the Brent crude price actually declined slightly in January, to approximately US$55.86 a barrel,” Pua (photo) said.
Pua, who is DAP national publicity secretary, also claimed that even if one were to second guess that the fuel price hike was due to the ringgit depreciation, it still didn’t add up.
In December 2016, he said, the ringgit depreciated from RM4.38 to RM4.48 to the US dollar.
However, last month, the ringgit was trading at approximately RM4.42 to the dollar, which meant it had marginally strengthened that month.
“Therefore, the increase in fuel prices cannot be the result of any increase in crude oil prices or further depreciation of the ringgit,” Pua said.
“Hence Najib, as both the prime minister and finance minister, must explain why petrol prices have increased so significantly,” he said, adding that the Finance Ministry must also disclose whether the government is actually imposing hidden taxes on consumers to cover up government budget shortfalls.
Pua further reminded Najib that a week ago, he had said he did not want a situation where ministries use excuses, such as “not enough budget”, to not implement people-oriented projects.
“Not receiving money or not enough budget should not be an excuse for any operating ministry not to start a project or programme.
“If the above is the reason for the hefty hike in fuel prices this month, does that mean the people are forced to pay for the so-called ‘people-oriented projects’ so that the Najib-BN administration can claim credit?” he asked.
Therefore, the government must provide a full disclosure of the data, formula and exact details on how the fuel price hikes are calculated.
This, he added, is so that Malaysians will know exactly why they have been forced to suffer as a result of the government’s policies.
Hike unreasonable
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who also argued that the fuel cost hike was unreasonable, pointed to how there was no reason for the increase in the price of fuel.
“The prime minister must swiftly give an explanation on the increase in the price of petrol and diesel.
“At the same time, I urge the government to re-consider providing fuel subsidies and to reduce the goods and services tax (GST) rate to lessen the rakyat’s burden,” she said.
Citing the Brent crude oil price which has declined, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man also questioned the increase in fuel prices.
The PAS leader is of the opinion that the impact from the increase in fuel prices could not be reversed even if the price of fuel decreases in the coming months.

“When the price of goods and services have increased, it’s quite impossible for it to be reduced as it is related to the wages and income of certain quarters.
“That’s why many have asked the government not to increase the price of fuel on a whim as this will lead to the increase in the price of goods and services,” he added.
This year has become more challenging as a result of a government which is not concerned over the rakyat’s plight, said Tuan Ibrahim.- Mkini

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