Graph from oilnergy.com
Having identified one of the main sources of public disenchantment, the BN-led government, with one eye firmly on the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign, has cut the price of petrol from RM2.70 to RM2.55 – a reduction of 5.6 per cent.
This price change is clearly politically motivated. When they raised the petrol price in Malaysia by 41 per cent on 5 June, the price of Nymex Light Sweet Crude was around US$125 per barrel (on 4-5 June).
The closing price yesterday was US$121 – not much different from then – and now they announce a cut of 5.6 per cent? Tell me it has nothing to do with Permatang Pauh. Why didn’t they wait until 1 Sept, the date they had fixed earlier for “streamlining” oil prices?
For this reduction, therefore, Pakatan can claim victory. I can’t remember the last time the petrol price – or for that matter any toll or tariff – was cut. What goes up in Malaysia never comes down… until now.
I was half-expecting this – a petrol price cut on the eve of polling. This was always going to be their main trump card.
The sentiment on the ground was troubling for the BN. This afternoon I asked a mobile phone agent who runs a stall on the corridor outside a row of shophouses in Penang how business was doing.
She said it was down – and not just for her. “All the other shops here are saying that business is down.” When asked the reason for the slump, she explained, “People have less to spend now after the oil price hike.”
So consumer spending was down and businesses have been hurt. Ordinary people, especially the poor and marginalised groups, have been struggling to make ends meet as blog reader Calvin testifies:
Abdullah woke up for a while from his slumber after the March 8 tsunami – but is now back to sleeping mode again. His flip-flop decisions and poor economic management are causing us great pains.
As people who still travel to longhouses on a longboat – the impact of the recent price hikes is very much felt. Imagine having to buy a litre of petrol at RM4.50 – almost double the price that car owners have to bear.
It used to be only RM50 from Tatau to my longhouse – but now I need to fork out at least RM120! per trip. Unlike the people in the peninsula, longhouse folks don’t have regular income. RM120 is like a month income to them. They definitely couldn’t afford to spend that amount on petrol alone!
And this was what I wrote on 1 August:
Abdullah probably couldn’t ignore the oil price issue with the Permatang Pauh by-election looming. The price of oil is likely to be a big issue in the campaign especially with Anwar saying he can reduce it by 50 sen immediately if PR were to wrest power.
So what determines the price of oil – economics, politics… or opinion polls? A Merdeka Centre poll reveals that Abdullah’s approval rating has plunged to a new low (42 per cent) while 59 per cent of Malaysians think that economic problems are the most important issue facing Malaysia today.
By the way, has anyone noticed any improvement in public transport since the 41 per cent price hike on 5 June? I don’t see any big changes. Are we going to forget public transport and oil conservation now?