The 4-in-in price hike on Petrol, diesel, gas and sugar is not justified on the following grounds:
1. The first 3 items should not be allowed to hike because Petronas which to a large extent, produce the items, has so far refused to disclose its full account to the people, raising suspicion that the proceeds from the price hikes could be utilised to benefit certain parties in election campaigns. This is particularly an issue considering that the talks of general elections is fueled by the postponement of the UMNO’s AGM by 18 months. The non-disclosure of the Petronas accounts for all the time since it was formed means that the ruling parties could be abusing the fund which rightly belong to the government and the people behind it.
According to academic sources Petronas own 49% of the country’s oil royalty and that alone enable it to contribute 40% of the country’s budget. The people would like to know to what extent the Petronas profits have been going to party campaigns-which by all accounts, run into billions at each general elections. It is a public interests issue to know how the ruling parties have managed to raise such astronomical amounts while concurrently another similar astronomical amount of the Petronas fund is hidden from the public’s view! Allowing the price hikes of these items produced by Petronas run the risk of feeding the wrong targets.
For Sarawak -a major producer of the fuels that form the top 3 items selected for price hikes, there should be an increase in the oil royalty entitlement to the state -which should work better if there is a change in state administration where Federal allocations would not end in the state politicians’ pockets.
In principle non-transparent monopoly holders should be barred from raising the price of any basic necessities because the raising of such prices may not necessarily derived from market movements alone or to benefit the public through transfer of fund for such investments eg in improving roads or public transports. In practical terms to clarify that the fuel price hikes are necessitated by market movement Petronas should disclose its account fully while the Malaysian election laws must be amended to require full transparency on party’s financing. There should be a transparent mechanism to tie any price hike to increase in allocations in social services eg public transport improvements. The transparency allow the public to monitor the wealth redistribution, something which is absent all this while in the public administration of the country.
2. Sugar prices should not be hiked because there exist an import license for sugar imports-making the prices amendable to manipulations for private profits and not reflecting the supply and demands of the market. It is to be noted that at some stage the sugar prices in the country had been higher than international markets -thus benefiting those who hold the import license. If the international sugar prices has gone up the same monopoly should absorb it rather than passing it on to the consumers. So until the import of sugar can be liberalised the controlled sugar prices should not be allowed to go up.
While these unpopular price hikes are being bull dozed through the Parliament through the ruling party’s majority there the elections -including the state elections will certainly be delayed a bit to wait for the public to get over their resentment which may work against the ruling parties/incumbent. This means that a synchronised state and Parliament elections for the whole country-except state elections in PR ruled states, may be on the card.
The EC had played a partisan role when its no 2 Wan Ahmad warned that the EC may withhold fund for running the state elections in PR areas if these states government choose not to dissolve the state assemblies in tandem with the general elections called by the Federal ruling parties.