Anwar and Shabery shake hands at the end of the debate. So what do you think? Who was the more convincing? Respond to the poll on the sidebar.
2151: Why don’t you give your ideas without talk of changing government, Dato Seri?
Anwar: If they accept our suggestion, we will support them. In Feb 2006, after an earlier price hike, there was 4.8 per cent inflation. Now, after the price hike, inflation has soared to nearly 8 per cent in a month. Venezuela and Iran may have low oil price and high inflation, but we now have high oil price and high inflation! Look at the countries around us – how we have lost out to them in competitiveness. I still believe Malaysia, with its resources, has the potential if it cleans up its act.
Shabery: Mahathir has been blamed for the IPPs, but Anwar was once singing the praises of Mahathir. He should have resigned back then. Why is he only talking about a 50-sen reduction now when the oil price was RM1.92 before the election and he promised to reduce it then? We will only burden the country with high subsidies and could end up in debt to international “money lenders”.
Petronas alone (not the group) gives 91 per cent of its profit to the government. What else is there to give? Petronas is strong because of the government of Umno and BN. We do not burden Petronas but allow it to reinvest. About this talk of abuse of power – we are not alone in raising prices; it’s a global problem.
Anwar: Among oil producers, our price is high. If we want our economy to be strong, if we continue in this direction, our economy will be severely undermined. That’s why I am committed to explaining to the people. I will not respond to Shabery’s personal attacks. I don’t have space on RTM after this. I give you my assurance that i will contest in a by-election in the shortest time.
Shabery: Anwar hasn’t changed much. Those who built Petronas – Razak, Mahathir, Abdullah – Anwar has opposed them. If we continue to ask more money from Petronas to subsidise the country, we could end up poorer and Petronas could end up being taken over. Our GDP growth is 6 per cent, much better than many others. The debate now shows how open the government has become.
2140: In a few years we might not have enough oil. What do we do then? Should we continue the subsidy, or are you going to have a sharp price rise then?
Anwar: Who gave the figure of oil depletion in a few years? That assumes there are no further oil discoveries. Some 30 years ago, our reserves were supposed to last until 2005. Petronas then went abroad to explore. I defend Petronas but I criticise the BN.
The mismanagement of the government, the leakages… It’s true, the IPPs were during my time, but look at the record. Ani Arope was opposed to the EPU and the Prime Minister’s Dept over the IPPs. That’s why he quit.
The IPPs have made billions but those on the losing side are Petronas and TNB. We could plug the leakages and cronyism and save a total of RM3 billion. Who’s idea is this of a sharp oil price rise? This is a IMF-World Bank prescription! It is slanderous to say that I bowed to IMF wishes back in 1997-98.
Petronas said there was a special dividend for the government of RM6 billion this year. Can’t we take RM1 billion of this to reduce the oil price? It is not an issue of Pakatan Rakyat. It is for the people. We are staring at economic recession and unemployment.
2132: Why do you focus on the price of oil and not talk about income tax or reducing inflation?
Shabery: We are not a major oil producer. We are just a minor producer. We are just a small net exporter. Only 26 per cent of Petronas profit is from domestic sources. Petronas has to use its profits to find oil abroad. We now have a world renown oil corporation. Don’t make Petronas too poor.
Anwar: Shabery, who compared Malaysia to Venezuela and Iran? We should look at Malaysia as an oil exporter. The sharp rise has caused economic deterioration. Why did the government break its pre-election promise not to raise oil prices? Who is saying anything about taking Petronas money? My argument is to look at the IPPs and wipe out corruption. Why don’t we manage our treasury better to ease the suffering of the people?
Shabery: This is a populist argument. We can accept it if our oil is isolated from the world or if our oil is the only one that is expensive in the world. The IPPs existed when Anwar was in government, and he defended their contracts back then. Anwar used the methods that the IMF favoured to try and resolve the 1997-98 crisis. It is easy to talk when you are outside. Even with their difficulties now, believe me, the people have enough to eat. Show me a country which gives cheap oil without high inflation.
2128: When you were Finance Minister you sent up a Tabung Warisan. What was the aim?
Anwar: The idea was to keep part of our earnings for the future, but that was not maintained. The sharp price now has led to spiralling inflation. It will have adverse effects. But each rise of US$1 in the price of oil actually results in RM360 million income for us. Right now, the sharp rise in inflation will lead to a deterioration in the economy.
2125: In 2006, when there was a price hike, the government said it would improve public transport. Now they are saying that they are going to use the substantial savings for the benefit of the people. Can we believe that?
Shabery: All the countries that have cheap oil – look at Venezuela and Iran, look at their high inflation rates. We can now overcome our food price crisis. Our rice is cheaper than Thailand. We don’t have to demonstrate on the road or hold indecent concerts.
2120: Your premise of a 50 sen reduction is because Malaysia is an oil producer. But your points about IPP had nothing to do with oil. Are you going to distribute what has been collected through the hard work of others so that you get a good name?
Anwar: IPPs are also involved with oil and gas. Petronas has made a huge profit; its profit ranks it among the top 10 oil companies. We will definitely ask Petronas to reinvest. But Petronas is the right of the people. Are we just going to look after the tycoons and the cronies or the people? The 50 sen reduction is just the first step. The extreme price hike has won no support. The only ones supporting it are the BN MPs..
2111: Would the government have to subsidise foreign oil companies in retail sales if there is a price subsidy as Petronas alone does not control the retail market?
Shabery: If subsidies are given out, it would benefit the rich and foreigners as well. Why don’t we give the money straight to the people who need it? Finland and Norway etc do not have subsidies and have shown good economic performance.
Anwar: If you want to compare with Norway, it has 10 times the per capita income of Malaysia. The petrol price is hurting the poor and marginalised groups and aggravating their suffering. It is our responsibility. Such a sharp rise is burdening the people. If Umno and the ruling coalition don’t realise this, then their future is bleak. What about infrastructure spending – isn’t that a form of subsidy for companies? But we call that “incentives”. On the other hand, aid for the people is called “subsidies”, which are given a negative connotation.
2107: Shabery responds that the government would have to incur a subsidy of RM50 billion if it maintained the price at RM1.92 and that would affect development. He said that global factors also influence the oil price. He recalled the first global crisis in 1973-74, which worsened inflation including in Malaysia. Petronas was formed back then, which wasn’t easy. The people supported Razak’s move. Anwar protested against Razak back then. And Anwar was now doing this again.
2102: Anwar kicks off with his opening statement. He insists that with proper economic management and eradication of corruption, an immediate cut in petrol price of 50 sen is possible. He speaks of the suffering felt by many, particularly the Malays and bumis in Sabah. He points out that TNB has to pay for 40 per cent excess capacity and how Petronas has made an excellent profit of RM100 billion – which could enable the government to raise RM3 billion for distribution to the people through a price reduction.
2100: The one-hour live debate gets underway at Balai Budaya. The moderator warns against raising irrelevant issues. Both speakers receive decent applause.
Share your comments on the debate over TV9, Astro Awani and Bernama TV from 9.00pm. This live write up is specially for those of you who don’t have access to these three stations and those abroad who would like to follow the debate. Please note this is not a verbatim transcript; it just covers the main points raised or emphasised and paraphrases much of what was said.