Saturday, May 21, 2011

‘Are you deaf, Najib?’

SIBU: An opposition leader here has urged the federal government to retain petrol and diesel subsidies for fishermen and the lorries association and instead cut back on aid to the AP (approved permit) holders, independent power producers (IPP), F Class contractors and the housing industry.

Lanang PKR chief George Chan said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak must enforce a scheme that would benefit the majority and not just “cronies of the government”.

Commenting on the high subsidies given to AP holders (to import cars) and F Class contractors, he said this gesture only benefited a few people and not the masses.

“The subsidies for AP, IPP, F Class and housing only benefit a few people. Most of them are cronies of the government.


“These subsidies should be stopped. Here, we are talking about the general public and any scheme implemented by the government should benefit the majority, instead of the privileged few,” he said.

Chan said that abolishing subsidies would cause a chain reaction which would push up already soaring prices of daily necessities in Sarawak and Sabah.

“At the end of the day, it is the consumers who will have to bear the additional burden.

“I urge the government to seriously reconsider its decision to abolish this subsidy scheme as it would definitely backfire.

“The inflation rate is expected to go up further as a result of the increasing prices of thousands of commodities,” he told reporters here yesterday.

Speaking to FMT today, a teacher, already seething from Najib’s controversial announcement regarding promotions for teachers during the national Teachers’ Day celebrations on May 16 in Kuching, asked if the prime minister was “blind and deaf” to the onground realities.

“Malaysians are not stupid. We know the government needs money but why are you taxing us? Why don’t you take away the subsidies from those rich AP holders and IPPs?
“They (ministers) sit in Putrajaya and decide what is good for the people like us in Sarawak and Sabah.

“Some of my students tell me that there is less food in the house now because their father cannot afford to buy more. Every thing is now expensive.

“Everyday my wife is grumbling at how fast the prices of items are going up… everybody is talking about it …is the PM blind and deaf?” asked the teacher.

Serious repercussions

Meanwhile, the Rented Van Association in Sibu has also voiced fears at the effect of the subsidy withdrawal.

The association members who, among others, also ferry students to school, said increasing fares would not be a solution.

Association chairman Engkail Bunyau said its 68 members were already struggling to make ends meet following higher cost of spare parts and sluggish business.

“Now with the subsidies abolished, we don’t know what to do. Some of us may have to close shop,” he said, adding that the government’s announcement had taken them by surprise.

Last week, the government suddenly announced the withdrawal of super subsidy for diesel which was given to C2 fishing trawlers and the nine types of commercial vehicles, including limousine taxis, prime movers, general cargo movers, vans, rigid tanker lorries for flour transport, rigid lorry for refrigerated goods and water tankers.

The abolishment of subsidy is effective from June 1.

The government said that the cancellation was necessary because of rising prices of fuels recorded since October last year.

With the abolishment of the diesel subsidy, the government is expected to save RM659.3 million this year.

Days after the government’s shocking announcement, the Sarawak Lorries Transport Association (SLTA) decided to raise the transport charges from 20% to 30%.

SLTA president Jong Foh Jit said its members had no choice but to raise the charges to cover their overhead costs.

On Wednesday, the Sarawak Fishing Vessels Association also urged the government to rescind the decision.

According to its chairman, Ha Tung Ting, there would be “serious repercussions” if the government went ahead with its decision to abolish super subsidy for diesel.

Ha said with the subsidy withdrawn, the trawler operators would have to pay RM1.90 a litre, which, when added up, would incur an additional cost of RM20,000 a month.

“It is impossible for us to absorb this extra RM20,000. There will be serious repercussions on the fishing industry with the decision to abolish the super subsidy for diesel for the C2 licence holders,” he reportedly said.


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