I was stuck in a massive jam after I went to pick up a friend from the Penang airport. No matter how hard I tried to avoid the petrol stations, it seemed like the whole of Penang was out on the streets looking for oil, before the price hike at midnight.
While listening to the radio, I heard one caller phoning in to the deejay and saying something to the effect of, “Here I am stuck in a jam on the way to a petrol station to fill up. I wish I could stay at home like my friend Mr Abdullah and shake legs cos he doesn’t need to go out and fill up.” It took me a couple of moments to realise that he was speaking about the PM! Even the deejay responded, “I would rather be like your friend Mr Abdullah”!
This, then, is the shape of things to come. A 40 per cent hike in petrol prices plus a 20 per cent rise in electricity tariffs. Welcome to the free market and the “brave new Malaysia”.
The experts who advised on a 40 per cent increase figured they would give tax rebates to those with smaller cars.
But what about the makciks and pakciks and other retirees in the market staring at higher food prices, sparked by the latest round of oil prices? Who will help them with their food bills and higher bus fares? They do not all have cars, you know. Where are their rebates? If the private electricity corporations can get massive amounts of subsidised natural gas – why not heavily subsidised education and health care and food for ordinary Malaysians?
No one is saying that the price of petrol cannot be increased. Sure, the rich should pay more for the petrol they consume. It might even encourage fuel conservation. But this increase is way too sharp and will cause tremendous burden to the poor in terms of the knock-on effect on food and other essential items. And there is more to come? God help us! A gradual price increase spread out over a couple of years would have been much more tolerable.
The government must now tell us – and I am dying to know – what Petronas’ profit for the year ended 31 March 2008 is. Please tell us. Even if the final figures are not available, the preliminary figures should be out by now.
The profit before tax for the full year will probably be in the region of RM80 billion (on the back of revenue of RM200 billion) if the results of the first six months are any indication:
FInancial period Half year ended 30/9/2007 – HY ended 30/9/2006 – % Change – FY 31/3/2007
Revenue RM102.9 bil – RM88.8 bil – 15.8% – RM184.1 bil
Profit Before Tax RM42.3 bil – RM40.1 bil – 6.2% – RM76.3 bil
Check out the summary accounts here.
Also, have a look at this:
- HIGH: BG Group, BHP Billiton, Petro-Canada, Shell, StatoilHydro, Nexen, Petrobras, Talisman Energy
- MEDIUM: BP, Chevron, Conoco-Philips, Eni, Hess, Marathon Oil, Repsol, Total, Woodside
- LOW: CNOOC, CNPC, Devon Energy, Exxon-Mobil, Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Lukoil, ONGC, Petronas
Now, this is supremely ironic. Petronas can’t turn around and say Transparency International is biased because Petronas itself in the past has funded the operating expenses of the KL Chapter of Transparency International, otherwise known as the Kuala Lumpur Society for Transparency and Integrity! I suppose the irony is lost on Petronas. So why not transparent? What has it got to hide? Show us the detailed accounts!
We are repeatedly told that subsidies bad, very bad for you, my child. It distorts the free market-lah. You want to talk about subsidies? Let’s talk about subsidies. Tell us how many billions of ringgit in subsidies have been given to the IPPs in the form of lop-sided power purchase agreements that have enriched a small coterie of well connected tycoons and their firms. The business weekly The Edge once identified the IPP beneficiaries as Genting Sanyen Power, YTL Power, Malakoff Bhd and Tanjong Plc/Powertek Bhd. “These companies are controlled by the families of Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary and Ananda Krishnan, four of the richest families and individuals in the country,” the paper pointed out back then. See also: Petronas oil profits slip away
Tell us how much in subsidies has been dished out to bail out the banks over the years. And let’s not forget 1998, when Petronas, through its shipping carrier Malaysian International Shipping Corp Berhad (MISC), acquired a debt-laden shipping concern, Konsortium Perkapalan Bhd (KPB) in a deal some analysts felt amounted to a bailout of Mahathir’s son, Mirzan, whose KPB was then floundering under debts estimated at about RM1.7 billion.
Tell us how much of Petronas funds was used to subsidise the development of Putrajaya.
And does Petronas still want to subsidise the Formula One racing team and the National Philharmonic Orchestra? Going by free market “user pay” principles, the F1 spectators and classical music fans should absorb the full cost of running the racing team and financing the orchestra, shouldn’t they? Or do the country’s elite prefer to listen to subsidised classical music while the people suffer? Instead of saying “let them eat cake”, they might say “let them listen to classical music.”
Perhaps CDs of the Orchestra’s classical music could now be distributed to soothe the frayed nerves of Malaysians feeling the burden of the soaring cost of petrol, utilities, food, tolls and medicine.